The Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose in Bikram Hot Yoga Series is the 9th posture and comes just before Triangle Pose, the Master Posture of the series. The name of Standing Separate Leg Stretching in Sanskrit is Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana. It is a tongue twister, but it is translated from Sanskrit to English as follows: Danda means "stick" or "staff," and Yamana has the definition of "balancing" or "meaning."
During the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, you will notice and feel a stretching and lengthening sensation throughout the back of the body from your heels to the top of your neck. You will also see compression and a shortening of the muscles in the front of the body. This will lead to a massaging and movement of all of your inner organs and the digestive system.
You start the pose by turning to the right side of the room and bringing your hands above your head in prayer, and take a significant four to six-foot step to the right of your mat. You then get your arms parallel to the floor with the palms facing down. Slightly pigeon toes your feet as if the toes are in the shape of a reversed "V." Pull in in your stomach, slightly push your hips back and hinge forward with a perfectly straight spine. Your chin should be away from your chest, and your upper body should be flat like a board from the top of your head to your tail bone. Depending upon your ability, you can go right for your grip behind your heels, grab the sides of the feet or just place the hands flat on the floor in front of you with palms facing down.
You need to make sure that your legs and knees are locked throughout the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose. Have the weight of the posture moving forward into the toes and front of your feet. If you have a mirror nearby that you can look into seeing if your spine is perfectly straight. If you have any round spots in your spine, work on flattening those spots out as much as is possible.
There are a couple of different viewpoints on whether locking the knees or straightening the spine is more important, but I was brought up in yoga that the spine comes first. Ideally, you can both straighten the spine and lock the knees, but if you struggle to do both, I would bend the knees and work on straightening the spine. Lengthening the spine creates more room inside the pose and makes it easier to move the legs and lock the knees later on. Others believed and were trained differently, so you should listen to them and determine which approach works best for you in your yoga practice.
After your legs are straight and your spine is straightforward, we will work on the grip of the posture. If you have more flexible hamstrings, grab your heels and press all five fingers, including your thumb, into the bottom of your feet. If you cannot grab your heels, hold your feet from the outsides. You can also place your hands on the floor in front of you. No matter your grip, just work on straightening your spine and the back of your legs. If you have a hold on your heels, try and wrap your elbows behind your calves and continuously pull on your feet.
Make sure you match each movement in the Standing Separate Leg Stretching posture with an inhale or an exhale. As you are pulling on your feet, make sure your head is stretching down towards the floor. You should be pressing and lifting your shoulders up towards the ceiling. Work on scooping your tailbone and lengthening the neck and whole entire spine. If it gets too easy to do this posture move your feet in more to make it more challenging. Work on bringing your forehead to the floor between your legs if you are there today. Press your fingertips into the bottom of your feet and wrap your elbows more around your calves. Release the hold and come up with a perfectly straight spine. When you get to the top, take a step back in with feet touching, bring your arms over your head, and bring the hands to the side.
The Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose in the Bikram Hot Yoga Series is an intense opener and strengthener of the whole back of the body from the heels to the top of the neck. You are also compressing all of your inner organs and squeezing and shortening the front of your body. As with all yoga postures, go where you can go in the posture and listen to your body and make sure you are breathing while doing the pose. I hope this post helps you in your yoga practice and makes things a little easier on you. Namaste.