In every yoga flow class, I always incorporate forward folds (uttanasana) and variations of uttanasana. I was recently given some feedback from a client saying that she loved when I explained the benefits of this posture while she was in it so she could focus all of her effort on those benefits and understand what she was doing for her body in that moment of time.
The specific uttanasana variation was padangusthasana or “big toe pose” – (I like to call it “monkey forward fold” as that’s how I remember it!)
To find padangustahsana, you begin with the feet hip distance apart and fold down from your hips. The head hangs heavy between the upper arms and you should keep a bend in the knees to gently soften the hamstrings (just as you would in uttanasana). Take the two peace fingers around the big toe and draw the crown of the head down towards the mat. Draw your torso in closer to the body using the strength of your upper arms. You can do this sitting on a chair if that is better for you.
The benefits include:
- Lowers our blood pressure as our head is lower than our heart
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress by lowering our cortisol levels (the stress hormone)
- Relieves anxiety and mild depression
- Stimulates the liver and kidneys
- Stretches the hamstrings, calves, thighs and hips
- Improves digestion
- Reduces fatigue
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Helps relieve headaches and insomnia by reducing tension in the shoulders, neck and upper back
Another variation is Padahastasana:
From padangusthasana, inhale and look up. Slide your hands under your feet, palms up, toes nuzzle up the palms to the wrists. Exhale bending forward moving your head toward the space between your knees. Very carefully lean your weight forwards towards the balls of your feet and wrists. Imagine you are playing piano with your toes to give the palms a lovely massage.
This pose adds the additional benefit to the wrists, giving them a break and lots of attention ready for weight bearing in our downward facing dogs.
You might have noticed that both of these forward fold variations begin with “pada” – here’s another nugget of knowledge for you: “Pada” = “foot” in Sanskrit 😉
Finally, these restorative variations with a chair or leaning against the wall will all provide the same benefits and calming effect for the body…
Thanks for reading!