A standing forward fold is a great way to release and let go. Most forward folds have the theme of surrender, but a standing bend is passive, so the release is a little different.
In this Asana Lab I’m going to teach you Padungusthasana and Pada Hastasana. I’m showing them to together, so you can take your forward folds a little deeper if you would like.
Here’s how to do it:
Stand in Mountain Pose, and make sure your feet are together, and your body is strong.
Inhale while you jump the feet hip width apart.
Exhale fold forward as you lead with the heart. Keep the spine straight. Catch the big toes with the peace fingers. Bending the knees if you need to is fine!
Inhale as you lift the head, look forward, straighten the arms as you’re holding your toes. Extend the torso as you straighten the spine. Bring your hips forward.
Exhale as you fold forward to take the expression of the posture. Drop the head and look towards the nose. Keep the back straight. Hold for five or more breaths.
Inhale as you lift the head, look forward, straighten the arms as you’re holding your toes, and extend the torso as you straighten the spine. Place the palms under the feet so that the toes meet the wrists. This counteracts the wrist position since this comes directly after Sun Salutations. It helps to balance and release pressure from being in the opposite position for so long.
Exhale as you fold forward. Drop the head and look towards the nose. Hold for five or more breaths.
Inhale as you lift the head, look forward, straighten the arms as you’re stepping on the hands, and extend the torso as you straighten the spine.
Exhale as you release the hands and return to mountain pose or Samastitihi.
What to do while you’re holding the posture:
When you’re in both expressions of this posture, your goal is pretty much the same…
- Pull in the lower belly and try to fold even more with each exhale. Try to bring your belly towards your thighs, and your forehead towards your toes.
- Ground your feet and bring your hips forward. Don’t sit into your heels, but make sure the pressure is distributed evenly from the toes to the heel.
- The drishti or gaze is at the nose (nasagre). Drop your head and look towards your nose.
- Keep the back and spine straight the whole time.
- Pull up your knee caps, engage your quads, and keep those hamstrings safe!
- If you need to bend your knees – do it!
- Stay folded. Don’t move the body back and forth with the breaths, but stay folded with the belly in, and try to take it deeper with each breath.
Bring the awareness to your hamstrings. Work on surrendering to release them rather than stretching. With every exhale surrender a little more. It will grow slowly, and it will feel lovely each time.
Bring the awareness to the lower back. Your lower body should be strong, but the upper body and lower back should be heavier as you passively let the fold release and deepen from the lower back.
Use opposition of force. As you clasp the fingers around your toes, pull up on the toes, as you press down with the big toes. The toes shouldn’t leave the ground. Don’t use your arms and biceps too much. You should be just catching the toes, and letting the body surrender from the torso and lower back to create the fold.
In Ashtanga Yoga, these two postures are taught together. Usually each posture is held for five breaths, but feel free to hold them as long as you need. It might take awhile to really become aware of how to let go, and then hold the posture with total surrender.
Make sure to pause to reflect on the physical feeling of being here. If you feel ready to go deeper, please do, but if your body is telling you to back off or slow down, then just be where you are, and try again tomorrow.
I also recommend taking this posture when you feel stress or anger coming on. If your boss just upset you, someone hurt your feelings, or you’re just having one of those days – just find a quiet spot and take three minutes for this posture!
Other meditative variations are to let go of the toes and grab the elbows, and let yourself hang. You can also release the arms and hands to the ground. Reach your arms around and hug your legs.
Now finish up. Come out slowly. Smile. Have fun!
Tell me how this posture worked for you? What variation did you take? Did you notice your back or your hamstrings were feeling tight? Did you have a hard time letting go? Tell me your experience in the comments!