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Padhastasana

Last Updated: April 11, 2023

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In Padahastasana, the practitioner stands forward with legs straight and places their hands beneath their feet, with palms facing upward and fingers facing backward. This pose strengthens and stretches the hamstrings and arm muscles as an essential part of a yoga practice.

In the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, the Padahastasana steps are performed right after Padangusthasana, also known as “Big Toe Pose.” It is the second standing pose in surya namaskar b.

With regular practice, Padahastasana improves digestion, helps with losing weight, strengthens head and neck muscles, legs, and comes with a host of other benefits.

Hand Under Foot Pose

7_Padahastasana-ashtanga-seventh-websiteThe Sanskrit word "Padahastasana" consists of three elements: "Pada," meaning foot, "Hasta," meaning hand, and "Asana," meaning posture. It is often referred to as the "Hands Under the Feet Pose," "Hand Under Foot Pose," "Hand To Foot Pose,” or commonly referred to as “Gorilla Pose.” It is considered a style of hatha yoga, one of the preparatory poses.  

How to Practice Padahastasana

There are many ways to practice Padahastasana variations. One approach to entering the Padahastasana step is to move directly from Padangusthasana. During the final inhalation in Padangusthasana, the chest extends forward. Hands are placed under the feet. Padahastasana begins on exhalation.

Alternatively, you can start in Tadasana “Mountain Pose.” The feet are positioned hip-width apart while you inhale slowly. Be aware of the feet hip distance. Next, the individual bends forward, placing their hands under the feet. On the inhalation, the chest extends forward, pulling the upper body towards the feet with the help of the hands on the exhalation.

Physical Benefits of Padahastasana

Hand To Foot Pose stretches and strengthens the upper body, hips, reinforces the toes, thigh muscles, legs, feet, and ankles, improves circulation, relieves stress and tension in the back, reduces belly fat, and promotes better balance and flexibility.

Performing this pose in yoga can benefit the digestive system and organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands, helping them function in a more balanced way. People suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome may find relief from practicing Padahastasana.

Modifying Padahastasana for Simplicity

To simplify the practice of Padahastasana, one can keep a bent knee position. To target the wrists and shoulders while seated at a desk, place hands under thighs with fingers pointing inward and palms facing up. The pose can be modified to engage arm and shoulder muscles by flexing and extending elbows alternately. Flexing the elbows pulls the torso toward the thighs through resistance. Extending the elbows lifts the upper body away from the hands and stretches the shoulder blades.

Note that this modification does not use the toes to press the back of the palms, as in the traditional Padahastasana. Maximize this variation by actively pressing the thighs against the hands and extending the fingers. This creates a feeling of strength and length in the hands, whether the fingers are together or spread apart. Keep the fingers active.

Modifications for practicing shoulder movement in Padahastasana

Incorporating variation in shoulder position and ribcage posture is another approach to modify Padahastasana, especially in cases where the aim is to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome.

To adjust the position of the shoulders, whether the arms are bent or extended, the shoulders can be moved forward or backward relative to the ribcage.

This movement may result in more movement of the ribcage than the shoulders, but it is crucial to change the position of the shoulders relative to the ribcage. The movement should be slow and smooth, with each position held for a few breaths before switching.

The posture of the ribcage can also be altered in two ways: by lifting the chest, causing a backward bend in the spine, or by lowering the chest, causing a forward bend in the spine. This exercise is similar to the cat-cow movement.

Enhancing neck flexibility

When the ribcage is bent backward, the head can be moved backward and upward, with the chin tilted towards the chest, elongating the back of the neck. Conversely, when the ribcage is bent forward, the chin can be tucked in towards the pit of the neck, rounding the back of the neck.

Shoulder rotation

In this modification of Padahastasana, with straight elbows, one can focus on shoulder rotation. The focus should be on the elbow joints, and the arms should be rotated both externally, with the elbows pointing backwards or even backwards and inwards, and internally, with the elbows pointing out to the sides.

Practicing these movements may contribute to enhanced blood circulation in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

Without a chair

An alternative modification of Padahastasana can be performed by bending the knees and folding forward, with the hands underneath the feet. Two hand position options are available for this modification. The first is to place the hands, or one hand, under the heel of the foot from the side and press the outer edge of the heel into the crease of the wrist. The second option is to place the hand under the forefoot from the inside edge of the foot and press the inside edge of the forefoot into the crease of the wrist.

Hand placement in Padahastasana yoga pose

The traditional hand placement in Padahastasana involves positioning the palms facing upward with fingers pointing backward. The back of both hands should rest on the floor, while the toes are positioned against the wrists. To properly anchor the arms, it is recommended to press the toes down into the crease of the wrists.

To enhance the effectiveness of the pose, it is important to actively press the fingertips and thumbs into the floor, instead of relaxing the hands. The hand placement options mentioned for this pose in the previous section can also be incorporated.

Activating the feet and hands

In Padahastasana, it is recommended to not let the hands or feet remain passive but to actively engage them. The feet can be made active by pressing the toes down into the base of the hands at the wrist. To activate the hands, it is suggested to stiffen them and potentially engage the forearms as well.

Loading the arm and shoulder muscles

woman performing padhastasana standing outside next to the waterPadahastasana, commonly perceived as a yoga pose aimed primarily at stretching the hamstrings, can be leveraged to target the arms and shoulders by using the weight of your body. Apply pressure against the legs with the arms. This can be accomplished with either straight or bent elbows, depending on the individual's flexibility. By exerting the arms, the posture can be optimized to target not only the hamstrings but also the muscles at the front and back of the neck, thereby providing a potential strengthening effect. Additionally, variation in spine and ribcage posture can be explored by bending the spine backwards and forwards within the constraints of the pose.

Neck stretching in Padahastasana

In the Padahastasana yoga pose, one can stretch both the front and back of the neck by manipulating the spine and ribcage posture. When attempting to back-bend the ribcage, the individual should gradually raise the head and direct their gaze forward or upward, thus stretching the front of the neck. When bending the spine forward, the individual should first extend the back of the neck, then tuck the chin towards the base of the neck while pushing the head away from the front of the ribcage, stretching the back of the neck in the process.

It is recommended to stretch the neck in this pose due to the impact of neck and ribcage posture on the shoulders and arms. This back-bending neck stretch is especially important for individuals who spend a considerable amount of time texting or working in front of a computer hunched over.

Shoulder girdle movement in Padahastasana

An additional method to incorporate movement during the forward bend in Padahastasana is through the displacement of the shoulder girdle. The movement of the shoulder girdle can be in the anterior-posterior direction, based on the angle between the arms and the torso. This will result in the elevation or depression of the shoulders in relation to the ribcage, or result in the forward and backward displacement of the shoulders.

As the shoulder girdle provides support to the arms, the movement of the shoulder girdle can be highly beneficial, especially for individuals who limit the range of motion of their arms to specific positions and movements.

Leg movements in Padahastasana

In Padahastasana, there are several methods to incorporate leg movements into the pose. One option is to move the sitting bones inwards and outwards, which roughly corresponds to moving the shoulders forwards and backwards. This movement causes the pelvis to tilt slightly forwards when the sitting bones move outwards and slightly backwards when the sitting bones move inwards.

Combined with bending the spine forwards and backwards, the effects of the leg movement can be intensified.

Gluteus maximus activation

In Padahastasana, there are various methods to activate the gluteus maximus muscles. Moving the sitting bones inward or outward may result in activation of the muscle, with a different sensation for each movement. Another approach is to rotate the legs inward or outward, where external rotation results in knees pointing outward and arch lifting, while internal rotation leads to knees pointing inward and arch flattening.

Massaging abdominal organs through Padahastasana

For optimal results in massaging the abdominal and other digestive organs through the practice of Padahastasana, it is recommended to fold forward at the hips as deeply as possible. This may involve temporarily bending the knees to enable closure of the chest against the knees.

To experience the effects of this practice, it is suggested to bend forward while seated in a chair, placing the belly and chest against the thighs with the feet and knees separated by hip width. To further emulate Padahastasana, the hands may be positioned beneath the feet.

Emphasis should be placed on diaphragmatic breathing, inhaling into the belly to expand it, which will likely result in the chest moving forwards and rubbing against the knees. Exhalation should be focused on relaxing or actively pulling in the waist to force air out of the lungs.

Contraindications

Padahastasana is not recommended for pregnant women who are in their second or third trimester. Individuals with high blood pressure should also avoid this yoga pose.

Other contraindications include sciatica, back pain, heart disease, or abdominal hernia.

References

Padahastasana -Alignment, Benefits, and Cautions| YTT India

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