This is a great pose that provides a number of benefits. It is a forward bend and an inversion. It stretches and strengthens the legs. It can massage the abdominal organs and it may relieve headache or fatigue.
Muscles Stretched: Adductors (Adductor Longus, Brevis and Magnus, and Gracilis), Hamstrings (Semitendinosus, Semimembranousus), Gluteus Maximus, Errector Spinae, Peroneals
Muscles Strengthened: Quadriceps, Peroneals, Anterior and Posterior Tibialis, Lower Trapezius, Transverse Abs, Pelvic Floor
Points of Body Awareness:
*The outer edges of the feet should be parallel with the big toes turned in slightly.
*Are the hips in line over the ankles? If not, shift your weight forward onto the balls of your feet.
*Are the legs strong? The kneecaps should be lifting upward. The feet should be grounded so that arches are slightly lifted and the weight is equally distributed between the inner and outer edges of the feet.
*The head hangs heavy, providing traction for the neck. It may touch the ground but only very lightly.
*Move the elbows in toward one antother and keep the forearms parallel.
*The lower trapezius muscles engage, drawing the shoulders away from the ears.
*Inhale and allow the spine to lengthen.
*Exhale. Move deeper into your forward fold by drawing the navel in toward the spine and allowing gravity to lengthen the torso.
*Hold for 5-10 breath cycles.
*If you have difficulty reaching the ground or if your back is rounded with your hands on the floor, place your hands on blocks.
*Another variation that allows you to keep your back strait and to avoid the inverted, head-below-the-heart aspect of the pose is to reach overhead toward a wall in front of you.
*For a more restorative variation that may be helpful for relieving headache and tension, try leaning the hips onto a wall and/or resting the head on a bolster, a block or the seat of a chair.
*For more opening through the upper back and shoulders, clasp hands behind and lift overhead.
Tight adductors may be related to knee pain, hip and low back problems or groin strains. When the adductors are tight, they may cause internal rotation of the femur (cox-femoral joint). When the femur is internally rotated, it may alter the tracking of the patella in its groove, causing patella-femoral pain. If the adductors are tight or hypertonic, the piriformis of the same hip may be inhibited, leading to pain and dysfunction of the hip, sacroiliac joint or low back. Prasarita is a effective way to simultaneously stretch and strengthen the legs and torso and to address these muscle imbalances.
Prasarita is also a good way to strengthen the ankles when done properly. The ankles are in an inverted position with the weight naturally shifted toward the outer edges of the feet. Shifting the weight inward, "grounding through the big toe," requires the peroneals to engage in a lengthened position. This is helpful for those with chronic ankle instability. Learning to co-concontract the pereoneals and posterior tibialis muscles is even more therapeutic for those with "floppy feet." In my own personal practice, I have found this pose to be helpful in reducing the foot pain and fatigue that I experience while snowboarding.
Use caution with this pose for patients with recent adductor or hamstring strains or tendonitis, lateral ankle sprains, MCL sprains and back pain. Use of the modified variations of Standing Straddle may be helpful for increasing strength in pain-free ranges.
Contraindications to inversions (head below the heart) include hypertension, detached retina, glaucoma, cardiac problems or sinus pain. The modification with the hands on a wall may be a suitable alternative for these clients.
Images from Yoga Journal,Yoga, and Namaste Yoga