Beginners will find it difficult to hold their feet with their hands or touch the knees with their head; there is insufficient spinal flexibility.
You should hold your legs as near as possible to the feet.
If you are very stiff then you can hold the back of your calves; if you are less stiff then you can hold the back of your ankles.
The palms should face forwards and be in contact with the back of the legs.
Then practise as follows: Relax your back muscles.
Keep the legs straight. Breathe in deeply.
Then with exhalation try to bring your forehead towards the knees.
Do not strain.
The head should be gently pulled towards the knees by slowly tensing the arm muscles.
The back and leg muscles should remain passive.
Do not worry if you cannot touch your head to your knees – this will come with regular practice as your back muscles become more supple.
Under no circumstances should you utilize excessive muscular force.
If you cannot touch your head to the knees, then merely bend forwards as far as you can comfortably.
This is the final pose of stage 3.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Remain in this position for a minute or so, allowing the back muscles to relax and stretch.
Then proceed to stage 4.
Stage 4: spinal flexion
In this stage it is best if you can hold your legs just above the ankles; if you cannot do this then you can hold your legs at a higher point.
Twist your arms so that the palms face backwards while still holding your legs.
Keep your hands fixed in this position throughout. Breathe out deeply.
Then as you breathe in move your body as follows:
Raise your head and shoulders forwards and upwards as high as comfortably possible.
Simultaneously you should tense your arm muscles and try to pull your lower back downwards.
This is difficult to describe; if you try for yourself you will understand.
The lower and middle part of the back has to be pulled downwards by bending and tensing the arms; the head and shoulders have to be raised as high as possible.
This movement will apply a powerful tension and stimulation to the whole spine.
You will also feel a strong contraction of the abdominal muscles.
Hold your breath while applying this flexion in the spine.
This is the final pose for stage 4.
Then release the flexion. Breathe out and repeat stage 3; that is, try to touch your head to your knees.
Breathe deeply and slowly for a short duration.
Then repeat stage 4.
Stages 3 and 4 can be done one after the other for as long as you have available time.
Stage 5: return to the starting position
When you have done stage 3 and 4 a number of times release the hands from the legs.
Let them dangle as though without muscles and bones.
As you breathe in, slowly raise the body to the erect position.
This is 1 complete round of pada hastasana.
If you have time do another round.