Breathe through the nose throughout the practice. Normal breathing in the starting pose. Breathe out as you lean forwards. Breathe normally at the end of the forward bend (that is, at the end of stage 2). After deep inhalation, exhale as you draw your head towards the knees (stage 3). Breathe slowly and deeply while holding the head against or near the knees (stage 3). Breathe in as you raise your head and shoulders and tense the lower and middle spine (stage 4). Hold your breath while holding this flexion. Breathe out as you again try to touch the head to the knees (stage 3). Breathe in as you raise the body to the starting position. Coordinate breathing with physical movement throughout the practice. This will bring more benefits and will also make the asana easier to do.
Be aware of:
- relaxation of the back muscles
- physical movement
Mistakes to avoid
- Bending the legs: The legs should remain straight throughout the entire practice. It is easy to touch the head to the knees if the legs are bent; even a person with the stiffest back can do it. But one will gain little benefit, for the back and leg muscles will remain as stiff as ever even if you practise for ten years. So keep your legs straight even though it may be difficult.
- Tensing the back and leg muscles: The back and leg muscles should remain passive throughout the practice (except in stage 4). Often people tense their back and leg muscles in an effort to increase the forward bend. This is defeating the object, for this muscular effort makes the back stiffer and reduces the amount that the body can bend forwards. Let the muscles relax; they will slowly elongate and become more flexible.
- Jerking: Every movement should be done slowly and smoothly without sudden jerks.
Do not bend your spine more than its present flexibility will allow. Know and accept your limitations and do not exceed them. Slowly your spinal muscles will become more and more supple with constant practice; also your muscles will elongate slightly.
People who suffer from the following ailments should not do pada hastasana:
- slipped disc
- heart problems
- high blood pressure
- abdominal hernia
- severe sciatica
Duration and time of practice
Pada hastasana can be done for as long as you wish. A good duration is three to five minutes. Practise any time, whenever you have the time to spare, but do not practise after meals.