Padahastasana might be a mouthful, but the pose does wonders for your body. The yoga pose, which is essentially a forward fold with your hands slid under the soles of your feet, stretches your hamstrings, hips and back. It also stimulates your second chakra, which is located between the pubis and the bellybutton, and is thus believed to boost creativity and ease rigidity.
Use the pose after you've warmed up with several Sun Salutations to experience a fuller range of your hamstrings.
How to Do Padahastasana
In sanskrit, pada means foot and hasta means hand, so the pose translates as hand to foot pose. Ideally, a yogi keeps her legs straight in the posture, but this is quite intense on the hamstrings. If you find you just can't reach your feet with straight legs, bend your knees so you can slide your hands under your feet:
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart.
- Hinge forward from your hips and slide your hands under your feet so that your thumb mound is under your big toe.
- Keep your hands under your feet as you lift your head and lengthen your spine to look slightly forward. Exhale and fold as deeply as you can, attempting to lay your chest on your thighs.
- Hold for five full breathes, release your feet and rise.
The intention of Padahastasana is to increase your flexibility. It's an effective way to engage the backs of your thighs, as well as your lower back. You want to loosen up these areas because, when they're too tight, they're vulnerable to a strain or pull. Tight hamstrings and low back muscles can also be a source of back pain.
The fold also stimulates many of your endocrine glands, from your upper body all the way to your genitals. Your adrenals, thymus, thyroid, parathyroids, pineal and pituitary all benefit to balance out your hormones, which have effects on mood, physical health and focus.
The chakras are energy zones that spin along the spine in your subtle body. The second chakra is located at your sacrum and governs creativity, positive relationships and intimacy. The squeezing fold of padahastasana activates this chakra, which can help direct energy to your lower body and improve the associated energies.
Beware Bad Backs
Although stretching and strengthening your back with yoga can be helpful in reducing pain and returning function, a pose like padahastasana is usually contraindicated for certain back conditions. If you have a herniated disc, a strong standing forward fold pushes the disc out farther and aggravates pain. You're better off stretching the hamstring by lying on your back and using a strap to pull the leg toward you.