"Yoga is the joining or uniting of the mind, body and spirit to enrich the quality of one's life, and to enhance one's health."
-- Andrew Weil, M.D.
This pose creates a stretch along the top side of the body, from the back heel through the raised arm. What's often neglected is the need to match the stretch along the under-side of the torso. It might be better, then, to think of Utthita Parsvakonasana as the "Extended Sides Angle Pose."
Utthita Parsvakonasana (oo-TEE-tah parsh-vah-cone-AHS-anna)utthita = extended, parsva = side, flank, kona = angle
- Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees and ankles
- Stretches the groins, spine, waist, chest and lungs, and shoulders
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Increases stamina
Contraindications/Cautions - Use caution if you are currently or have experienced any of the following:
- High or low blood pressure
If you have any neck problems don't turn your head to look at the top arm; instead look straight ahead with the sides of the neck lengthened evenly, or look down at the floor.
Step by Step
- Stand in Tadasana. On an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3½ to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the center of the kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle. Roll the left hip slightly forward, toward the right, but rotate your upper torso back to the left.
- Anchor the left (back) heel to the floor by lifting the inner left groin deep into the pelvis. Then exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. As you bend the knee, aim the inner knee toward the little-toe side of the foot. If possible, bring the right thigh parallel to the floor.
- As you continue to ground your left heel to the floor, exhale and lay the right side of your torso down onto (or bring it as close as possible to) the top of the right thigh. Press your right fingertips (or palm) on the floor just outside of your right foot. Actively push the right knee back against the inner arm; counter this by burrowing your tail-bone into the back of your pelvis, toward the pubis. The inside of your right thigh should be parallel with the long edge of your sticky mat.
- Firm your shoulder blades against the back ribs. Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, then turn the left palm to face toward your head and with an inhalation reach the arm over the back of your left ear, palm facing the floor. Stretch from your left heel through your left fingertips, lengthening the entire left side of your body. Turn your head to look at the left arm. Release your right shoulder away from the ear. Try to create as much length along the right side of your torso as you do along the left.
- Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Push both heels strongly into the floor and reach the left arm forcefully toward the ceiling to lighten the upward movement. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left. Then come up and return to Tadasana.
- Low backache
- Menstrual discomfort
Modifications & Props
Here's an exercise that will help you get a feel for the proper action of the front thighbone in this pose. Buckle a strap into a medium-size loop and slip it over your front leg. Then perform steps 1 and 2 in the main description of this pose. Snug the strap into the right groin, into the crease where the thigh joins the pelvis (make sure the strap isn't touching the floor). Then hang a 10-pound weight from the loop, and complete the movement into the pose. Let the head of the right thighbone, which is just below the strap, sink into the weight toward the floor. Use this action to align the thigh parallel to the floor, ground the heels, and further lengthen the spine, especially along the right (lower) side.
You can also perform this pose with the lower arm in front of the bent-knee thigh. This will help create more stretch in the front groin. As you lower your torso to the side, bring the back of your right shoulder against the inner knee, and press your fingertips to the floor. Push the shoulder firmly into the knee and lean your torso back against the inner thigh. Lengthen your side ribs along the inner top thigh.
Beginners often have two problems with this pose: they can’t keep their back heel anchored to the floor as they bend their front knee into the pose, and then they can’t easily touch the fingertips of their lower hand to the floor once they’re in the pose. To solve the first problem, brace your back heel against a wall. As you bend the front knee and then lower your torso to the side, imagine that, with your heel, you’re pushing the wall away from you. For the second problem either rest your forearm on the top of the bent-knee thigh (instead of trying to touch the hand to the floor), or use a block outside the front foot to support your hand.
Deepen the Pose
Even for advanced students, the body’s weight tends to shift forward onto the ball of the front foot, unbalancing the pose. Once in the pose, lift the ball of the front foot off the floor and re-affirm the anchor of the back heel by pressing the head of the back femur bone deep into its socket and lifting the inner back groin deep into the leg. Then soften the ball of the front foot onto the floor again.
A partner can help you get a feel for the work of the back leg in this pose. Perform step 1 in the main description of this pose. Have your partner stand at your back leg, facing you, and loop a strap around your back inner groin (she can also brace your back heel with the inside of one foot). As you bend the front knee, your partner should firmly pull the strap against the inner groin, resisting it opposite to the movement of the front leg. Then as you lean to the bent-knee side, she should continue to pull on the strap, helping you to keep your weight back, on the back leg and heel.
Please consult your physician before starting this or any exercise program.
Information courtesy of Yoga Journal.