Prasarita Padottanasana is one of my favorite poses to do and teach. We see this shape in yoga in a number of forms. Sitting upright it is called upavista konasana, or wide legged straddle. On the back it is a wide legged plough pose.
My yoga life began with the ashtanga practice—a life changing experience that is still resonating. This was back in 1995 and my start was slightly unconventional.
Traditionally you make your way through the ashtanga series one pose at a time, getting a new pose as you are physically ready to move on. But when I first started the owners of the studio where I practiced were away in India and I learned the whole series in one shot with a printout of the poses sitting alongside my mat.
Some pieces of the learning were harder than others. Anything around the hips came naturally to me as I was born with a ridiculous turnout (which would come to haunt me) and lotus was an easy pose for me to slip into.
Prasarita padottanasana A-D is a piece of the warm-up for the ashtanga series and doing all four variations can be challenging. Often in classes I teach two of the four poses because I talk so much that teaching all four might end of taking thirty or more breaths.
Ostensibly, prasarita padottanasana is an inner thigh pose though C involves a lot of shoulder opening but for me the sensational focus was on the outside of the shin.
Prasarita padattanasana A is different for everyone in terms of the distance that the feet are apart. We would like the crown of the head to touch the floor in a direct line with the hands and feet so that if you turn your head from side to side you will be looking directly at your arches.
If this is easy for a student they need to walk their feet closer together so that they are as close together as possible with the head on the ground. If the head doesn’t actually touch down, there is only so far the feet should separate in the attempt to do so.
Once the width of the feet are established in prasarita padottanasna A, they should stay that way for all of the variations.
The curious thing that I had to deal with was burning feeling in the outer calf that is a deep opening of the peroneal muscles and the fascia of that area.
Having (literally) lived on the outsides of the feet for my entire life, using the whole foot in prasarita padottanasana six days a week had a profound effect on my peroneal muscles (the burning) that changed my posture in a positive way, the benefits of which I am still reaping.
If you get this burning sensation and stick with doing the pose on a regular basis this too shall pass.
Back to my ashtanga beginnings and learning on the fly; for the first month that I was doing prasarita padottanasana in the warm-up sequence two things happened regularly. My outer calves burned and I would get dizzy and come close to passing out every time I came up.
And then both of those rather miserable feelings stopped happening and I have never really had to deal with either issue again.