Feb, 11, 2014
Hot Yoga Evolution: Padahastasana, Hands-to-feet Pose
Hot Yoga exercises like this one are mostly focused on facilitated stretching. This means we are using strength to stretch. Dynamic, mindful action, combined with awareness and correct way of breathing…
The essence of work in Padahastasana: facilitate the stretch by activating the upper-body strength with a combined upward movement of the hips – this initiates a powerful extension through the spine (primary stretch), and the back of the legs (secondary stretch).
The reason that a spine stretch gets priority over leg-stretch is that a healthy spine is crucial to overall health, yet we can live relatively healthy lives with tight hamstrings (that’s a joke – haha!)
How to do it
To come down from Half-moon Backbend, bend forward from the waist keeping your knees straight, thighs lifted and back flat. Just hang forward and relax your whole body. Careful with your knees and squat down, relieving the pressure from your lower back.
Lift your hips up toward the ceiling and place the fingers under the heels so the little fingers touch together – this allows the elbows to work around the back of the calves.
Touch your stomach to your thighs, your chests to your knees and after 2 to 3 counts – press your face to your shins. It’s more important to keep your upper body pressed to your legs, the fingers under the heels and the elbows behind the legs than it is to straighten the legs!
Slowly lift your hips up to the ceiling as you press your face into your shins in a combined motion, until you completely straighten your legs.
Please be careful: if your back is sensitive or injured – BEND YOUR KNEES as you lower your hands to the floor from Half-moon. You can even place your hands on your thighs to protect your back better.
Take your time in the first set and soften, exhale, and relax. When it’s time to grab your heels, students with limited flexibility: do the best you can in keeping your hands and arms behind by bending your knees more. If you are NOT able to place your hands underneath the feet, grab a hold of your calves, or simply hold onto each elbow behind your knees.
Keep working to straighten the legs an inch at a time, using your arm strength to pull up on your calves, ankles or heels.
Be careful coming out of the pose, ascend the same way you went down, keep your knees bent and place your hands on your thighs, if needed.
Now that you’re getting close to straightening your legs, press your face into your shins, as you lift your hips forward and up toward the ceiling and front of the room. This combined movement will allow you to use your body for leverage in order to better stretch your hamstrings.
An important concept in understanding the dynamics of Hot Yoga is “isolation”: flexibility and strength, relaxation and intensity, softening and hardening. Soften and relax the area you’re trying to stretch. In this pose, it is the hamstrings (back of the legs) and lower back, both connected by the sciatic nerve. Strengthen your arms pulling up on your heels and contract your quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh).
Pull on your heels with your biceps, not the shoulders. The shoulders work BACK towards your hips and AWAY from the ears.
If your legs are straight and your upper body is flat against your legs, don’t place your fingers under your heels. Instead, cup your heels from the side so the thumb, forefinger and the webbing between your thumb and forefinger touch the floor. If you place the fingers under the heels, it shortens the hamstrings and inhibits your flexibility. It’s going to feel weird at first, but after a few times you should start experiencing a deeper stretch.
One footnote: your hands will have a tendency to slide up, don’t let it happen, keep your hands down.
We’re not done yet! Halfway into the pose, slowly begin to look down at the top of your feet. Keep your chin on your shins, lift your shoulders up toward the ceiling, and pull your head to your feet. Don’t crunch your neck. Your neck vertebra should line up with your back vertebra. Toward the end of the posture, lift your hips UP toward the ceiling and then SCOOP your tailbone UNDER to stretch the muscles around the sit-bones.
The final position is to touch your head to your feet, knees fully extended, quads contracted.
Back problems? Be aware that for any Student with a back issue, coming down from Ardha-Chandrasana to Padahastasana is a movement they must be VERY careful with. Encourage your Students to protect their lower back on the way down (and up, out of the pose) by bending their knees.
Please realize that many Beginners, especially male, will already feel an intense stretch just ‘relaxing down’ in any standing forward bend. Give them more time in an easy pose, before you insist on grabbing the back of heels / using strength to stretch. If you decide that hanging down is not beneficial, and you don’t have yoga bricks to help brace the hands on – maybe offer a child pose instead, as a passive and ‘do-able’ forward fold.
Modification for tight hamstrings: grab ankles, not heels. This allows the Student to bring the elbows behind the knees, and the front of the upper body closer to the front of the legs, as instructed.
Modification for pregnancy / big belly / large bust: open the feet hip-distance apart, then modify as with tight hamstrings (above).
Please note: Hot Yoga Evolution is based on the Barkan Method Hot Yoga.www.barkanmethod.com