Parsvottanasana: Intense Side Stretch Pose
From lengthening the spine and stretching the legs to calming the mind, there’s a little bit of everything good in Parsvottanasana (parsh-voh-tahn-AHS-anna), also known as Intense Side Stretch pose. Helpful for finding balance and stimulating digestion, Parsvottanasana requires a combination of flexibility, strength, and patience. But with the help of props such as blocks or a wall, the pose becomes accessible for everyone.
Philosophy + Origin
Just like inversions can change our perspective on life, focusing on the often overlooked side body, rather than just front and back, has the same opportunity. Because Parsvottanasana requires your full attention, practicing the posture becomes a bit of a reality check – there really is no good place to hide. In day-to-day life, there are dozens of opportunities to overlook or ignore the truth, whether as a means to cope or just simplify the realities of life. But, over time, this behavior creates energetic residue, which starts to corrode the body, mind, and spirit. While practicing Parsvottanasana, be courageous and strong as you explore those overlooked areas. Remind yourself that the more clearly you understand what’s actually happening, the more capable you’ll be in determining which action (or decision) is best.
- Place hands on blocks to reduce the intensity of the posture while keeping the torso long.
- Place your hands on a wall in front of you to reduce the intensity and to work on strengthening the muscles of the back.
- For a more challenging variation, take the hands in Reverse Prayer position behind your back. This will stretch and open your shoulders and chest while also challenging your balance. If Reverse Prayer isn’t accessible, you can still bring your arms behind your back, reaching for opposite elbows instead.
- If you have difficulty bringing the back heel to the floor, place your heel on a wall or a sandbag so you can push through the heel to activate your leg muscles.
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Low back pain or injury
- High blood pressure
For beginners or students new to Parsvottanasana, align your torso so that your navel point is more toward the inner side of the front thigh. This alignment will help you find a better sense of balance while working on other cues in the posture. As you become more familiar with Parsvottanasana, work to align your navel point more with the midline of the front thigh. Not only will this alignment deepen the side stretch, but it will require you to be more aware of your feet for balance.
- Begin in Mountain Pose at the top of your mat. Step your left foot back into a wide stance. Keep your right foot in the same position you had in Mountain Pose, the edges of your foot parallel with the long edges of your mat and the toes pointing straight forward. Adjust your back foot so that it turns out at a 45 degree angle. Draw a straight line from your front heel to your back heel and make sure that the middle of your right knee lines up right over the middle of your right ankle.
- Without over-adjusting your hips, begin to turn your torso to the right, aligning your chest, shoulders, and ribs with the front of your mat. Ground through your back heel as you rotate your upper inner thighs of both legs back. Broaden across your collar bones as you draw your shoulder blades down and in towards your spine. Lengthen your tailbone down.
- As you exhale, hinge from the hips so that your torso moves closer toward your front leg. Once your spine is level with the floor, place your hands on either side of the front foot, either on the ground or on blocks. Engage the thighs to lift the kneecaps up and then press back. This action should help you find even more length in your torso. Keep your sternum lifted and shining forward.
- For balance, use the base of the big toe and the inner part of the heel of your front foot like a magnet with the floor. Continue grounding through the heel of the back foot, ensuring that your thigh stays active so that you don’t lock your knee.
- If you have the flexibility to fold forward more while keeping the front and back of the torso long, start to bring the chest and belly towards the thigh. Stay in the posture for up to 30 seconds before using an exhalation to come back up. Return to Tadasana or simply turn to the back of your mat to practice the posture on the other side.
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- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Baddha Konasana
- Prasarita Padottanasana
- Utthita Trikonasana
- Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Janu Sirsasana
- Pincha Mayurasana
- Salamba Sirsasana
- Upavistha Konasana
- Virabhadrasana I
- Parsva = side
- Ut = intense
- Tan = stretch, extend
- Asana = pose
- Stretches hips and hamstrings
- Lengthens the spine
- Relaxes shoulders and neck
- Strengthens legs
- Stimulates digestion and organs associated with digestion
- Improves overall balance
- Improves flat feet and posture
- Calms the mind
- Soothes the nervous system
- Enhances mental focus and clarity
A powerful chant to increase clarity and compassion, to recite the Sikh Mool mantra, simply repeat, “Ek ong kar satnam.” Roughly translated, this means “There is one universal god and that is the truth of existence.” This mantra puts you in touch with the divine, providing strength and balance you can depend on through the ups and downs of life.
MUDRA: Hakini Mudra
A simple mudra that can be practiced during meditation and throughout the day, Hakini mudra is done by pressing all ten finger tips together, stretching the fingers apart while keeping the palms of the hands separated. Many people naturally use this mudra when speaking.
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