Guys, this pose is one of the most common poses in yoga and you will find me giving you several variations of it during class. I love this pose mostly for the actual simplicity of it but the benefits of extending the spine here are really delicious. It's one of the most modifiable poses, you can bend your knees if your leg muscles are tight and you can't use straight legs for the pose. Can't reach the floor with your hands? Use a block to bring the earth to you! It's one of the first poses in Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A) as well as second to last pose in the sequence.
Of course I make you inhale as you lift the arms up and bring the palms together vinyasa style to prepare for the forward bend as you exhale down. Take as many breaths as you like if you are on your own, 5 is usually plenty. Every inhale, drive the crown of the head toward the earth and let it extend the spine. You can place the palms on the mat, wrap your peace sign fingers around your big toes and cap off the ends with your thumbs, or wrap the hands around the back of the ankles and/or heels.
You can make your forward fold wide legged, making your base solid from the waist down by pressing into the outside edges of the feet for stability as well as strength. You can place your palms flat to the mat or use a block here. You can also grab your big toes with your peace sign fingers and cap them off with the thumbs as well.