Urdhva Prasarita Padasana
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana is the upward spread-out foot pose. Lie down with your arms by your sides. Exhale and bring the arms over your head, elbows firm and fingers stretched. Feel the stretch all the way from the hips to the fingertips and from the hips to the feet. Activate the feet and knees and firm the legs.
Exhale and raise the legs to 90 degrees (SEE FIGURE 13-4). Lengthen the lower back to the legs, and draw the thigh muscles up toward the hips. Lengthen the back of the legs to the heels, by stretching the heels away from the body. Press into the feet. Ground the outer hips down. Keep the eyes, throat, and abdomen soft throughout the posture. Stay for several seconds.
FIGURE 13-4: Legs at 90 degrees
FIGURE 13-5: Legs at 60 degrees
Then exhale and lower the legs to 60 degrees, following the above actions for a few seconds (SEE FIGURE 13-5). Lastly, bring the legs to 30 degrees (SEE FIGURE 13-6). Maintain the stretch of the arms and the strong leg action. Stay for several breaths.
FIGURE 13-6: Legs at 30 degrees
Exhale and smoothly lower the legs to the ground with control. Bring the arms to the side and relax (SEE FIGURE 13-7). To repeat, bend the legs to bring the legs up to 90 degrees.
FIGURE 13-7: End of pose
You can also practice this pose by placing the palms under the buttocks throughout the pose for support of the lower back. If you have difficulty with the pose, begin practicing with one leg raised at a time until the back and abdomen become stronger and endurance improves. You can also try keeping one leg bent, with the foot on the floor, while the other leg is raised and lowered.
If you feel lower back pain throughout the pose and its variations, don't do the pose. The pose is also not recommended during pregnancy or menstruation.
The benefits of Urdhva Prasarita Padasana include the following:
It strengthens abdominal muscles.
It strengthens lower back muscles.
It improves digestion.
It reduces fat around the abdomen.