Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend, Upavistha Konasana, (oo-pah-VEESH-tah cone-AHS-ah-nah)
upavistha (seated) + kona (angle) + āsana (pose)
Also Known as: Forward Straddle Pose, Hastapadasana
Tap into the breath as you edge closer to the earth in this forward bend.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose Fundamentals
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend, also known as Forward Straddle Pose, is considered a relatively modern yoga pose. While the origin of some asanas can be traced back to ancient hatha yoga texts, Upavishta Konasana is believed to have made its first appearance in Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar.
Translated from Sanskrit, the name of this pose reflects the physical action required to perform it. Upavistha (उपविष्ट) means “open”, and kona (कोण) means “angle”; in essence, the pose prompts the practitioner to find a wide opening position for their hips.
From a physical standpoint, this advanced yoga pose is a fantastic way to improve your hip mobility, lengthen the hamstrings and spine, as well as keep the groin area strong and healthy. Additionally, it’s great for mastering your ability to focus.
- Improves hip flexibility. Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend is a very efficient and versatile stretch for the hips. Not only does it help to improve the range of your external hip rotation, it also strengthens the hip flexors! If you practice any other activities that require hip mobility (such as running or swimming), you should definitely incorporate this asana into your training!
- Stretches and strengthens the groin. The groin is the junctional area that connects your abdomen and your thighs. If you’ve ever tried to lift something heavy, you know the importance of keeping your groin muscles in top condition!
- Promotes healthy posture. When we bend forward, we have a natural tendency to round our back. However, this pose requires elongation of the spine, which in turn strengthens the muscles that keep your back straight. At the same time, you’re conditioning your body to keep your back in that long and strong position in other situations. As a result, your posture improves without you even noticing.
- Improves concentration and focus. During the pose, you must stay alert and aware of every part of your body. This is a great way to refine your focus and work on your ability to concentrate, especially when you have to keep several things in mind at once.
1. Start by sitting with your legs extended forward. Carefully move your legs to a wide angle, opening the hips enough to feel the stretch. Keep your ankles active, with the toes directed at the sky. Don’t let your hips rotate inwards, keep your knees pointing up.
2. Take a breath in and lengthen through your spine. Pull your shoulders back and free your chest. Activate the muscles in your quadriceps to keep your legs still.3. Place your hands on the floor directly in front of you. As you exhale, start to lean forward, walking your hands ahead of you as you progress. Take your time! With every inhale, pause to reflect and readjust if needed. With every exhale, release tension and allow your body to sink further into the pose.
4. At one point, the exhales will offer no progression. Once you’ve reached that limit, find a sustainable way to stay there. This may require adding props or modifying this asana.
5. If your chest reaches all the way to the ground, you can either keep your arms extended forward, or open your arms and reach for your feet.
5. Stay here for approximately five breaths. In a more advanced practice, you may aim for 30-60 seconds. To exit, soften through your shoulder and neck. Use your hands to push your torso back to the upright position.
- Because of the wide-legged seat, it may be worth turning to face the long edge of your mat. This way, your feet can remain on the yoga mat, providing you with an adequate amount of grip and cushioning.
- The primary focus in this pose is on external hip rotation and groin stretch. Many people fixate too much on the hamstrings, neglecting their form or even injuring themselves as a result.
- This pose is a great reminder that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. You don’t have to push your hips to their limit! A 90-degree angle is perfectly sufficient.
- To help you find the upright starting position, you may add a slight anterior tirl to your pelvis. This will also create an optimal hip alignment for your forward bend.
- Don’t be afraid to incorporate props into your practice! The full expression of this pose requires advanced levels of flexibility and control. If you have set your mind on mastering this pose, you better buckle up for a long journey ahead. In the meantime, take advantage of props and modifications!
- Be mindful of your lower back. Did you know that your hamstrings are connected to your lower back? If you feel any unpleasant sensations in that region, such as pinching or pulling around your pelvis and lumbar spine, you should adjust your position.
- Open heart, open hips. It can be very tempting to round your spine to get closer to the ground, but that’s not what this asana is about! It is important to maintain a long, straight back the entire time you’re in this pose. That will allow you to breathe without restriction and advance your flexibility at the same time.
In its full form, the Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend is an advanced asana. If you want to reach the ground eventually, you should focus on gradually improving your range of motion in this pose.
However, holding your torso in a suspended position can be a challenge in itself. With the gravity pulling your chest down, and the resistance in your hips and groin, the body is under a lot of pressure. To help you maintain your form and stop your muscles from straining, you could rest your chest on a bolster. This will take some of the weight off your hips and lower back and provide tangible support for your upper body. With this bolster variation, you could even incorporate the Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend into a Yin Yoga sequence.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose With Knee Support
Unsurprisingly, this asana can be very taxing for the hamstrings! If bending forward feels like you’re on fire, it might also mean that your sciatic nerve is aggravated. The good news is, you can still practice your hip flexibility and your forward bend range in these situations.
The key to conquering this pose is to simply unlock your knees. Add a little bend in both legs and slide a rolled-up towel or blanket under the back of your knees for support. You’ll be amazed to see the difference it can make! Meanwhile, you can still enjoy stretching your inner hips and groin and strengthening your hip flexors.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose With Elevated Seat
This variation is for yogis who struggle with hip flexor strength. When you set yourself up in a wide-legged seated position, you will immediately notice if the hip flexors are weakened. If you have trouble staying upright, that means your hips can’t easily flex to 90 degrees. And if sitting up is a challenge, how could you be expected to bend forward?
The answer is by increasing the angle at the hip! Use a block, a cushion, or a folded blanket to elevate your seat off the ground. That will give you the opportunity to fix your posture, as well as provide you with some room to increase your range. Most importantly, take your time! You can gradually train your hips to flex a little further, until one day you won’t even need to sit on a block.
- Protect your neck. When you start leaning forward, make sure you lead with the center of your chest. Avoid pulling your head forward, as this will force your neck into an unnecessary flexion. If your practice is advanced enough to reach the floor with your chest, be careful about the way you rest your head on the floor. Try not to tilt our head back, as this can compress the vertebrae in your neck and restrict blood flow.
- Sciatica. While forward bends are not inherently bad for your sciatic nerve, they can seriously aggravate it if you already suffer from sciatica. Watch out for discomfort in your calves, hamstrings, and lower back. If you find this pose uncomfortable or painful, it’s a sign you should back off. Try one of the variations above or skip it altogether.
- Spinal column. If you suffer from a past or current spinal injury or condition, especially if the injury is located in the lower back, practice this pose with extreme caution. If the injury is severe (such as a slipped or herniated disc), you should consult a medical professional before you attempt this pose.
- Awareness is key. There are so many elements involved in this yoga pose, that it’s absolutely essential that you stay in tune with every sensation in your body. Watch out for any unpleasant sensations, especially in the areas surrounding the bend: the groin, pelvic floor, thighs, and lower back.
- Pregnancy. While the full expression of this pose is out of the question for women in their third trimester of pregnancy, the modified version can be quite useful for keeping the hips supple in preparation for the birth. That said, you should make sure to get cleared by your physician before practicing any yoga poses while pregnant. Additionally, you should exercise caution and ease off in case there is any sign of trouble.
Bound Angle Forward Bend (Baddha Konasana Uttanasana)
Wide Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
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