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Build Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend) on a steady foundation. Think of your feet as having four corners: your inner and outer heels, big toe mounds, and pinkie toe mounds. Press into all four corners while lift your inner and outer arches. This lift will travel upward, firming the entire length of your legs and grounding your feet into the earth. If you have tight hamstrings or hips, bend your knees slightly to ease the stretch so that you can keep your low back long and fold forward from your hip joints.
Because your head is brought lower than your heart, Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend pose can serve as a substitute for Sirsasana (Headstand) for those with neck issues, says yoga teacher Richard Rosen, “Many benefits of inversions—especially bathing the poor old tired brain with freshly oxygenated blood to perk it up—accrue to Prasarita without any weight-bearing stress on the neck.”
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend basics
Sanskrit: Prasarita Padottanasana (pra-sa-REE-tah pah-doh-tahn-AHS-anna)
Pose type: Forward bend
Targets: Lower body
Why we love it: “I’ve always relished the feeling of slowly (and I mean slowly) releasing down into this deep forward fold to let gravity do its thing,” says Erin Skarda, Yoga Journal digital director. “The resulting stretch through your legs, especially your hamstrings and calves—and your adductors and groin if you shift from side-to-side—feels oh-so-sweet. Prasarita is one of my go-to poses between Zoom meetings. I can breathe here, hands to opposite elbows, and literally feel the space opening in my body and mind. It’s the perfect reset before slowly (slowly!) rising to tackle the rest of my to-do list.”
Become a member today to get access to Yoga Journal’s Pose Library, which blends expert insights from top teachers with video instruction, anatomy know-how, variations, and more for 50-plus poses, including Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend. It’s a resource you’ll return to again and again.
This calming pose strengthens and stretches your legs and spine. It also tones the abdominal organs and can help relieve mild backaches.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin facing the long side of your mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
- Step your feet 3 to 4 feet apart, with your hands on your hips.
- Lift tall through your whole torso and fold slowly over your legs. Bend from your hip joints instead of rounding your lower back. If your back starts to round, stop folding forward.
- Place your hands flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart; begin to stretch your torso forward.
- Fold deeper, bringing your head toward the floor. Anchor your feet, firm your leg muscles and activate your inner thigh muscles. Lengthen your entire spine from your sitting bones to the crown of your head.
- After several breaths, ground into your feet, straighten your arms, and lengthen your spine forward.
- Inhale as you slowly lift up to standing. Step your feet together, come into Mountain Pose at the front of the mat, and pause.
- The wider your stance, the easier it is to bend forward. But if it’s too wide, you may feel unstable and start to tip forward.
- If you feel tightness in your low back or the back of your legs, bend your knees as much as needed to find comfort.
If your hands don’t reach the mat, you can bring them to blocks.
Teaching Prasarita Padottanasana
These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Never force yourself into a forward bend; rounding your torso forward from your belly to get your hands on the floor is counterproductive.
- Find the most appropriate stance for you, which will depend on the length of your legs; shorter people won’t have as wide a stance as taller folks will have.
Variation: Wide-Legged Forward Bend with hands on blocks
If your hamstrings are tight, place blocks in front of you to bring the floor to you. Keep your legs active.
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