1. From Tadasana (Mountain Pose) step your feet 3½ to 4 feet apart. Place the hands on the hips. Turn your back foot so that the toes turn out at a 45 to 60 degree angle and the front foot is pointing forwards. Align the back heel with the front heel. Firm the thighs and turn the back thigh outward, so that the center of the back knee cap is in line with the center of theback ankle.
2. Square the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat. Hug the front femur (thigh bone) into the hip joint to square the hips. Press your outer thighs inward, as if squeezing a block between your thighs. Firm your scapula’s (Shoulder blades) against your back torso, lengthen your coccyx (tail bone) toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.
3. With an inhale take the hands behind the back and take hold of the elbows or take the palms together in a Namaste position behind the back. Melt the scapula’s down the back and draw the elbows back to open the chest, lengthen through the spine. With an exhalation, lean the torso forward from the groins over the front leg. Stop when the torso is parallel to the floor. Press the thighs back and lengthen the torso forward engaging the navel towards the spine, lifting through the top of the sternum.
4. In this pose the front-leg hip tends to lift up toward the shoulder and swing out to the side, which shortens the front-leg side. Be sure to soften the front-leg hip toward the earth and away from the same-side shoulder while you continue squeezing the outer thighs. Press the base of the big toe and the inner heel of the front foot firmly into the floor, then lift the inner groin of the front leg deep into the pelvis.
5. Hold your torso and head parallel to the floor for a few breaths. Then, if you have the flexibility, bring the front torso closer to the top of the thigh, but dont round forward from the waist to do this. Eventually the long front torso will rest down on the thigh. Hold your maximum position for 5 breaths, then come up with an inhalation by pressing actively through the back heel and dragging the coccyx first down and then into the pelvis. Then go to the other side.
Contraindications and Cautions
If you have a back injury or high blood pressure, avoid the full forward bend. Instead keep the torso parallel to the ground. Perform steps 1 and 2 as described above, a couple of feet from and facing a wall. With an exhalation lower your torso parallel to the floor and reach your hands out to the wall. Press your palms actively into the wall (preferably with your elbows fully extended), keeping your front torso longer than your back.
Deepen the pose:
There are two ways to position the torso over the front thigh in this pose. Beginners should align the midline of the torso over the inner side of the front thigh. Advanced students should rotate the torso and bring its midline down over the midline of the front thigh.
Calms the brain
Stretches the spine, shoulders chest, hips and hamstrings
Strengthens the legs
Stimulates the abdominal organs
Improves posture and sense of balance