|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 99 ]
Padottana kriya is the "movement for stretching the legs," and is an excellent activity for stretching the long muscles of the body. This practice is also sometimes referred to as agra kriya (agra means to "move forward").
This alternating forward and backward bending at the hips is a wonderful practice to improve spinal column flexibility and leg strength, for increasing mobility in the sacral-iliac joint areas, enlivening the spine, and relieving tension in the hips and low back. The cranial nerves associated with the senses of the head are also stimulated via reflex nerve currents resulting from this practice, especially benefiting the eyes.
This kriya, when done in a more gentle way, is a useful addition to the standing jattis. When done in a more vigorous fashion, it has a stimulating effect upon the nerves, enlivens the spinal column and opens up restrictions to the healthy flow of prana throughout the legs, hip area and upper torso.
NOTE: Always use cautions when engaging in any backward-bending movements. Also, when performing any backward bending movements, it is best to keep the eyes open wthroughout the movements.
How to Breathe
Here is a general rule concerning the breath during forward and backward bending. In general, when back-bending (spinal extension) we inhale, and when forward bending, we exhale. There are exceptions and modifications to this in some practices, but in general it is a rule to always remember when uncertain about how to breathe during any movement.
- Stand with your legs as wide apart as is comfortable (2 to 3 feet). Place your hands either onto your lower back or your buttock/posterior thigh area. Begin with a nice even inhalation and slowly extend into an easy, semi-backbend.
- Note: Remember to keep your eyes open!
- On the exhale, come back to the upright position and continue, in a fluid motion, bending forward at the hips. Keep your back flat and your head up, and at the same time slide your hands down to the front of your knees. Inhale back up into the backbend, returning your hands to their posterior position of support. Repeat this entire action at least three times.
Note: The duration of both the inhalation and the exhalation should be of a count of 6 (six seconds) for each. That means that we are moving slowly and breathing deeply throughout the forward and the backward bending.
- In a second set, perform the backbend in a similar fashion, but allow yourself to move farther into the forward bend, sliding your hands down to the middle of your shins each time. Remember to keep your back flat and head up.
- In the third set, stretch yourself even farther forward now, sliding your hands right down to your ankles.
- If flexibility allows, 4th, 5th and 6th sets can also be attempted; sliding your palms down to the floor along your insteps; placing your elbows onto the floor in front; and dropping your forehead down, resting it upon your hands in namaskara mudra, respectively.
The contents of this web page are intended for informational purposes only. One should not engage in any yoga practices based solely upon the directions given on this web page or any other page of this web site. Anyone atempting to perform any of the yoga exercises introduced on this website assumes full responsibility and does so at their own risk.
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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