Pada Hastasana (hand to foot pose)
1. Stand with the spine erect, feet together and hands beside the body. Relax the body. This is the starting position.
2. Distribute the weight of the body evenly on both feet.
3. Slowly bend forward by taking your hips outwards and making sure that lower back remains straight. While bending forward, imagine that the body has no bones or muscles. Do not strain, force the body or bend from upper or lower back.
4. Place the fingers underneath the toes or bring the palms to the floor beside the feet. If this is not possible, bring the fingertips as near to the floor as possible.
5. Relax the back of the neck and try to bring the forehead to the knees. In the final position the body is bent forward with the knees straight and the forehead touching the knees.
6. Hold the position, relaxing the whole back.
7. Slowly return to the starting position in the reverse order. This completes one round.
8. Relax in the upright position before continuing the next round.
Note: While holding, maintain normal breathing.
Breathing: Inhale in the starting position. Exhale while bending forward. Breathe slowly and deeply in the final position. Inhale while returning to the starting position.
Duration: Practise up to 5 rounds, gradually increasing the time for which the posture is held and decreasing the number of rounds, or practise one round for 3 to 5 minutes.
Physical - on the movement, relaxation of the back muscles or the breath.
Spiritual - on swadhisthana chakra.
Sequence: This asana may be practised before or after backward bending asanas and may be used as a preliminary to other forward bending poses to encourage maximum flexibility.
Contra-indications: This asana should not be practised by people suffering from serious back complaints, sciatica, heart disease, high blood pressure or abdominal hernia.
Benefits: This asana massages and tones the digestive organs, alleviates flatulence, constipation and indigestion. All the spinal nerves are stimulated and toned. Inverting the trunk increases the blood flow to the brain and improves circulation to the pituitary and thyroid glands. Other benefit resulting from this inversion include increased vitality, improved metabolism, increased concentration and the removal of nasal and throat diseases. The dynamic form of pada hastasana also helps to remove excess weight.
Variation: (dynamic forward bending)
1. Stand upright with the feet together, arms beside the body and the palms of the hands facing backward. The fingers should be together and straight.
2. Raise the arms above the head, keeping them straight and shoulder width apart.
3. Lean backward slightly to stretch the whole body.
4. Bend forward from the hips and try to touch the floor with the palms of the hands.
5. Place the hands on either side of the feet with the tips of the fingers in line with the toes. Try to bring the forehead to the knees. Keep the knees straight. Do not strain the hamstring muscles by using excessive force. Hold the final position for one or two seconds.
6. Raise the body to the upright position, keeping the arms straight above the head. Lower the arms to the sides.
Duration: 5 to 10 rounds to begin with. Advanced practitioners may increase this number up to 30.
Practice note: Beginners should try to bring the fingertips to the floor beside the toes. If this is not possible, they can grasp the ankles or calves.