Parsarita Padottanasana or wide leg forward fold, is a wonderful asana that helps with the tension in the shoulders. In practice this pose uses the weight of the head and the shoulders to pull the stress from the upper back and release the tension in the muscles.
The shoulders are one of the main places that we carry tension and stress of our everyday lives. Many times when doing hip openers, we have a tendency to pull the stress from the lower back and pull it up to the shoulders. Doing poses like Pradarita Padottanasana help pull the stress out of the shoulders and have it leave the body. Practicing forward folds like this one open up and relax the shoulders so that when doing the seated poses, working in the hips, the stress is released and not moved into another part of the body.
How to Practice
Kick your right leg out so that it is at the back of the matt and keep the left leg on the front of the matt. With your hands on your hips, inhale opening the chest, exhaling folding at the hips. Inhale bringing length to the back, then exhale melting into the pose. Leg your hands and head drop, relaxing the shoulders and allowing the gravity to pull the tension out of the shoulders.
Inhale coming half way up bringing length to the spine. Exhale bringing the hands to the hips. Inhale coming the rest of the way up. Exhale binding the hands behind the back with the fingers interlocking and the arm out. Inhale opening the chest, exhale folding at the hips. Inhale bringing length to the spine, then exhale folding all the way over. As you breath feel the opening in the shoulders, exhale melt into the pose, letting your hands slowly work over your head.
Prasarita Padottanasana is a pose with many benefits, however few can be explained as well as the feeling of this pose. This pose should be practiced with caution, as all standing forward folds should be. People with low blood pressure, headaches, and low blood sugar should be particularly careful when practicing this pose.
With any forward fold, a good back bend followed by a twist are the best ideas. With something that can be a very difficult pose for some, it is best to follow with something light and easy. I recommend the easy and delicate standing variations. One would be to exhale the hands to the lower back with the fingers pointing to the ground. Inhale open the chest, exhale dropping the head and upper back as much as feels good, into a small back bend. Inhale coming into standing pose. For the twist, place the right hand on your middle back, left hand on your right hip. Inhale for length, exhale twisting to the right. Repeat on the other side. Be sure to hold each pose equal to what was held for Prasarita Padottanasana.