Upavistha Konasana, or the Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend, is a very important preparation pose to help you perform the other seated and standing forward bends and twists with ease. This pose is often difficult for most people because we are not in the habit of sitting on the floor.
Sitting in chairs all day shortens the hamstrings and tightens the hips, leading to chronic lower-back pain and many other structural problems in the body. However, Upavistha Konasana helps correct these problems, and you need to practice it regularly to get the full benefit of this posture.
(Pronounced as "oopah-veesh-tah cone-AHS-anna")
The Sanskrit word upavistha means "seated," and kona means "angle."
Sit down on your yoga mat and stretch your legs out straight in front of you. If it's too hard for you to sit on the floor, then you can sit on a folded blanket for more support. Grab your legs around your knees and pull the legs out sideways one by one so that your legs are as far apart as possible. Straighten your legs so that the entire back sides of both legs press down into the mat. Keep your toes aimed up straight at the ceiling to prevent the feet and legs from rolling in or out.
Now press your palms into the floor behind you to slide yourself forward a few more inches on the floor, which will help you widen your legs a little more. Extend your legs out through the heels. Do not point your toes.
Focus on pressing the backs of your thighs firmly into the floor while you walk your hands forward on the floor in front of you. Try to keep your arms straight as you stretch forward. Bend from your hip joints and try to keep your back straight. When you feel your back start to dome so that your chest is collapsing down, then do not move further.
Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds in the beginning. Then continue steadily increasing the duration of the hold each time you practice it. As long as you gradually increase the hold, you can stay in this posture for as long as you want with great benefits.
Come out of this pose carefully by grabbing the insides of your knees, slowly bending the knees and pulling the legs back together with your hands.
For severe lower-back injuries: Sit on top of one or two folded blankets. Do not try to bend forward much. Instead, focus on trying to grab your toes and lifting your chest as you look up toward the ceiling.
In the beginning, it is often difficult to bring your torso all the way forward to rest on the floor. Bend forward as far as you can. Then place just enough props underneath your torso to fill up the gap of space remaining between your chest and the floor. You can use a bolster or rolled blankets. Lay your torso down on the props and remain here for some time to allow your muscles to stretch out fully.
After you come into the pose, reach out and grab the big toes of your feet. Hold the toes between the first and middle fingers of your hands and your thumbs. Pull your toes toward you while extending the heels out. Look up at the sky while lifting the chest and tucking your shoulder blades in. Then exhale while bending forward and pulling your chest down to rest on the floor. If you are very flexible, then you can reach around with your hands to grab the sides of your feet near your ankles, using this pull as leverage to press your torso down further.
When you are more comfortable in this pose, then practice doing the twisted variation, called Parivrtta Upavistha Konasana and pronounced as "pah-ree-vritt-ah." Come into the full pose of Upavistha Konasana as described above.
Exhale as you turn your torso to the right side and press your left palm into the ground right next to the outside of your right thigh. On each inhalation, lift your chest up a bit. On each exhalation, use the leverage from your hands to twist deeper as you gradually move your left hand down the outside of your right leg toward your right foot.
Press your left thigh firmly into the mat to stabilize this movement. If you can, try to grab the outside of your right foot, but you can stop and grab any part of your right leg instead once you reach your maximum stretch. Keep both sides of your torso long. Put your right hand out to the side on the floor.
Hold this final position for a minute. Then come back up on an exhalation. Repeat this pose on the other side for the same amount of time.
Ask a partner to help you feel how the inner-thigh muscles need to lengthen. Sit down and stretch out your legs to the sides as described above to come into the pose.
Then have your partner sit on the ground facing you. They should stretch their legs apart also so that they can press the soles of their feet against the insides of your ankles. Then you should grasp each other's wrists.
Both your partner and you should keep your arms straight. Now have your partner gradually lean back as far as they can, which will pull your torso forward. Tell them when to stop leaning back if it becomes painful.
Then they should continue pulling you as they lean to the side and then come forward so that you both move in a circular movement together. Then you can lean back and pull them forward and continue moving in a circle. Focus on relaxing your inner-thigh muscles and elongating all of the muscles of your inner legs.
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