Want to learn more about Upavista Konasana aka Straddle Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of this pose, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, a step-by-step video, modifications and more.
While this isn’t a pose I have ever been able to do easily, it is one I enjoy working on. It is an excellent pose for prepping your body for other poses. What kind of poses? Well, Upavista Konasana prepares you for other seated forward folds and twists and for wide-legged standing poses.
Did you know that this pose crosses boundaries in yoga? It is often practiced in Hatha classes, vinyasa classes, it is part of the Ashtanga Primary Series, and it is common in Iyengar Yoga classes as well.
As with many poses in Iyengar Yoga, the use of cushions or blankets is encouraged when practicing Upavishta Konasana. You will see in the step-by-step video below that I also recommend using blankets when setting up for this pose.
- Upavista Konasana Quick Facts
- Upavista Konasana Benefits
- Precautions & Contraindications
- Myths & Misconceptions About Straddle Pose
- Upavista Konasana Breakdown
- Modifications & Variations
- Yoga Poses Related to Straddle Pose
- Related Posts & Videos
- Gear & Resources for This Pose
- A Final Note About Straddle Pose
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Upavista Konasana Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Upavista Konasana / Upavishta Konasana|
|English||Straddle Pose / Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend / Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold|
|Pronunciation||oo-pah VEE-shtah koh-NAHS-uh-nah|
|Meaning||Upavista means seated or sitting.|
Kona means angle.
Asana means pose or posture.
Upavista Konasana is generally referred to as Straddle Pose, Seated Straddle, or Wide Leg Seated Forward Fold. A literal translation is Seated Angle Pose.
Upavista Konasana Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Upavista Konasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Upavista Konasana include:
- Stretches your hamstrings, pectineus and inner thighs (adductors).
- Strengthens your erector spinae, which can help improve your posture.
- Strengthens your other core muscles as well (transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, pelvic floor, obliques).
- Strengthens your hips’ external rotators (the deep six muscles plus the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus).
- Stretches and strengthens your hips.
- Opens your hips, helping to increase hip mobility.
- Strengthens your lower back.
- Strengthens your shoulders.
- Strengthens your hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris, tensor fastiae latae, etc).
- Strengthens your pelvic floor.
- May help alleviate sciatica symptoms.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
Some of the reasons you may want to avoid practicing Seated Straddle Pose include being pregnant, having a disc injury in your spine, or blood pressure complications. Always consult with your medical professional.
- If you have high blood pressure, do not fold forward in the pose. Instead practice a variation of Upavistha Konasana where you are sitting upright. See Modifications below.
- If you have a herniated vertebral disc, you should consult a doctor before performing Straddle Pose. It is likely best to avoid the pose, or practice it sitting upright, instead of doing the forward fold.
- If you have a groin or hamstring tear, it is best to avoid this pose until you have fully healed.
- If you are pregnant, you will want to use props to protect your abdomen if you choose to fold forward. It may be better to practice this sitting upright or on your back with your legs up the wall (Legs Up The Wall Pose / Viparita Karani).
- If you have an injury to your lower body, you may wish to avoid this pose — ankle, hip, pelvic, and knee injuries will all affect your practice of Straddle Pose.
- If you have recently had surgery to your hips, spine or knees, it is probably best to avoid this pose. Remember to discuss your yoga practice with your doctor.
Myths & Misconceptions About Straddle Pose
Not an ancient pose
Upavista Konasana is not found in any medieval Hatha yoga texts. It first appears in print 1960 with a different name, Hastapadasana, or Hand to Foot Pose, in Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, by Swami Vishnudevananda. It then appears, this time with the name Upavista Konasana, in BKS Iyengar’s 1966 publication of Light on Yoga.
Prior to these publications the pose was not mentioned in yoga texts. However, it was being practiced at T. Krishnamacharya’s shala in the 1930s, as seen in a video showing Krishnamacharya’s wife, Namagiriamma, practicing Upavista Konasana (the pose appears at 4:42 in the video).
Men claiming things about women
“Since the asana controls and regularises the menstrual flow and also stimulates the ovaries, it is a boon to women,” claims BKS Iyengar in Light on Yoga, with absolutely no science to back it up.
Let’s be clear — sitting in a seated forward fold does not regulate the flow of menstrual blood.
The founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, on the other hand (and former fellow student of Krishnamacharya along with Iyengar), K. Pattabhi Jois, claims that it should not be performed in pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, see the Modifications section below for some tips on practicing this pose.
Yoga poses don’t cure you of kidney problems
I read in more than one place that Upavista Konasana detoxifies your kidneys and that it will even prevent kidney-related issues from occurring in the future. What? That’s amazing. Oh, and totally not backed up by an scientific evidence. Spreading your legs wide and folding forward is not going to solve any and all kidney problems. Sorry.
Upavista Konasana Breakdown
How to do Upavista Konasana
- Sit in Dandasana. Make sure your sit bones are pushing down into the ground.
Note: If you cannot sit in Dandasana with your legs straight out in front of you AND have the natural curves in your spine (aka your lower back is not rounding), I recommend you practice Upavista Konasana sitting on a folded-up yoga blanket. This will help you align your pelvis and spine for your forward fold.
- Move your legs wide apart, up to a point where you feel a stretch in your inner thighs, but not so far that your lower back rounds.
- Flex your feet, straighten your ankles, straighten your knees and point your knees and toes towards the ceiling.
- Touch your fingertips to the ground behind your lower back and push away slightly so that you can tip your pelvis forward slightly, which will help you sit up straight.
- Place your hands on the ground in front of you and pull back slightly. Lengthen your spine.
- Start to flex at your hips, as you work to keep your spine straight. Only fold forward as far you are able to keep your legs straight and your spine straight.
- Pause. Stay here for a few breaths.
- Start to walk your hands forward a little and see if you are able to fold forward more. Maintain length along the front of your body as you move further into the fold.
- If you can fold forward until your chest comes to the ground, do so. Remember to keep your legs and spine straight.
- Hold your big toes with your first two fingers and thumbs. Push out through your legs, and resist with your hands. Stretch your spine long.
- This is Upavista Konasana.
- To come out, lift your head and chest. If you are holding your toes, let go. Sit up with a straight, long spine. Hold your inner thighs and lift up slightly to bend your knees. Pull your legs together.
- Sitting with bent knees and giving yourself a hug can feel good after practicing Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) can also be a good follow-up pose.
Note: In the full pose, you fold forward until you can rest your chin and/or nose on the ground. One day, maybe, if your body allows for it and you put in the practice.
Modifications & Variations
Check out the Preparatory Poses section below for a list of poses I recommend you add to your practice if you want to work on your Upavista Konasana — poses such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Fold) and Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall).
Also, remember that:
- You don’t have to hold your toes.
- Only fold forward as much as you want.
- Keep your back straight and flex at your hips.
- Remain sitting upright if you want.
If your back rounds in Dandasana
If your lower back rounds
Bend your knees to release your hamstrings some, which will give you a little more freedom to tilt your pelvis (anterior tilt – or like you’re arching your lower back). This will help you find your straight spine.
If you bend your knees a lot you may want to put a bolster or folded up yoga blanket under your knees for support.
To help your pelvis to tilt forward (anterior tilt), sit on a folded yoga blanket.
If you can’t reach your toes / have tight hamstrings
You can use two yoga straps/belts and wrap them around your big toes, holding one strap in each hand. This can benefit your hamstring flexibility, as it gives you the opportunity to straighten your legs fully in Upavista Konasana.
If you are pregnant
Use bolsters and yoga blocks to build up a support structure for your baby, abdomen, and to hold your head.
When pregnant, it is not ideal to apply pressure to your abdomen. If you are comfortable folding forward part way, do that. If you have access to props and want to build a little castle of support for your belly, do. If you’d like to practice the pose sitting upright, go for it. And if you don’t feel like sitting in the pose? That’s also totally cool. It’s your body and your practice.
This video by Shammi Gupta shows a few good modifications for pregnant students.
In Parsva Upavistha Konasana — parsva means “side” — you turn and face one leg and hold the foot of that leg with both hands. Avoid raising the opposite hip.
In Urdhva Upavistha Konasana, the upwards variation, you hold your big toes and your straight legs are wide apart, as in the seated version. However, your legs are also raised to around head height, as you balance on your sit bones. The pose can be modified with a strap around each foot if you can’t straighten your legs in the pose.
Yoga Poses Related to Straddle Pose
- Marjaryasana and Bitilasana / Cat and Cow Pose
- Baddha Konasana / Bound Angle Pose
- Uttanasana / Standing Forward Fold
- Ardha Uttanasana / Half Forward Fold Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Indudalasana / Standing Side Bend
- Uttitha Eka Padasana / Extended One Leg Pose
- Salabhasana Variations / Locust Pose Variation
- Vrksasana / Tree Pose
- Prasarita Padottanasana / Wide Leg Forward Fold
- Janu Sirsasana / Forehead to Knee Pose
- Paschimottanasana / Seated Forward Fold
- Viparita Karani / Legs Up The Wall Pose
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana / Bridge Pose
- Balasana / Child’s Pose
- Vajrasana / Thunderbolt Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Viparita Karani / Legs Up The Wall Pose
- Gomukhasana / Cow Face Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Parsva Upavista Konasana / Side Saddle Pose
- Urdhva Upavistha Konasana / Upward Wide Leg Pose
- Tittibhasana / Firefly Pose
- Kurmasana / Turtle Pose
- Bhujapidasana / Shoulder Pressure Pose
- Vishvamitrasana / Vishvamita’s Pose
- Hanumanasana / Hanuman’s Pose (Full Splits)
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: How to do Prasarita Padottanasana – Benefits & Pose Breakdown
- Post: How to Do Legs Up The Wall – Benefits & Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Video: Yoga Pose Breakdown | Upavistha Konasana aka Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Stephen’s Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Organic Cotton or Hemp Yoga Bolsters
- Thick Vegan Yoga Blankets
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- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
- Use our code AYO10 for 10% off all Corq yoga mats.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Straddle Pose
Keep in mind that this is an intense hip opener that can also put a lot of pressure into your lower back, so it should be practiced with care. This is one of the only poses that I teach where I recommend a prop for basically every student (of course, it depends).
In general, most of us will benefit from practicing Upavista Konasana while sitting on a yoga blanket. If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot. Sit so that the front edge of the blanket helps tilt your pelvis forward to get the most benefit of the prop use.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post helps you see this fairly common pose with new awareness and understanding. I want these posts to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply. The more you understand about each pose the more it will help you find the strength and clarity needed to live your adventure to the fullest!