Extended Side Angle Pose — Utthita Parsvakonasana — is a common standing yoga pose that stretches and strengthens your entire body. This challenging variation opens the shoulders and chest even further! In Sanskrit, it is called Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana (BAHD-uh oo-TEE-tah PARZH-vuh-ko-NAHS-uh-nuh). Broken down, this name is translated as:
- "Baddha" — meaning "bound"
- "Utthita" — meaning "extended"
- "Parsva" — meaning "side" or "flank"
- "Kona" — meaning "angle"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
The "bind" refers to the way your arms clasp around your torso in the pose. Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana is sometimes simply referred to as "Bound Side Angle Pose," or "Baddha Parsvakonasana." It is also the preparatory position for the standing balance pose, Bird of Paradise (Svarga Dvijasana).
Benefits of Bound Side Angle Pose
Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana has all of the same benefits as Utthita Parsvakonasana, including:
- Relieved stiffness in the shoulders and back
- Deep stretch to the groins and hamstrings
- Improved stamina
- Strengthened legs, knees, and ankles
- Stretched and toned abdominal muscles
- Therapeutic for constipation, infertility, sciatica, menstrual discomfort, and low backache
This variation has the added bonus of opening your chest and shoulders while improving your body's overall balance! It will build flexibility in your upper body, arms, and shoulders. It will also quickly tone your hips, butt, and thighs.
Do your practice actually and practically, but not obsessively.
Do not practice this pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, or high or low blood pressure. If you have a neck injury or current neck pain, do not turn your head upward in the pose. Instead, keep your gaze straight ahead with both sides of your neck evenly extended. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Turn to the left and extend your arms sideways to shoulder-height, palms facing down. Step your feet as wide apart as your wrists. Align your heels.
- Turn your right foot outward 90 degrees so your toes point to the top of your mat. Bend your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (you may need to widen your stance). Keep your right knee directly over your heel. Turn in your left toes slightly and align the heel of your right foot with the arch of your left foot.
- Keep your torso open to the left; do not turn your body in the direction of your right leg. Gaze out across the top of your right middle finger. This is Warrior II.
- Exhaling, lower your right arm to rest your fingertips on the mat. Place your right shoulder as low as you can against your right inner thigh.
- Lift your right hand from the floor and reach your arm back beneath your right hamstring.
- Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling. Then, bend your elbow and bring your left arm behind you. The top of your left forearm should rest on your back.
- Clasp your left wrist with your right hand. If you can't grasp your wrist yet, interlace your fingers, or hold onto a yoga strap.
- Do not allow your top shoulder to drop forward. Keep your collarbones broad and your chest open and lifting. Draw your top shoulder blade into your upper back. Work to stack your left shoulder above your right one.
- Turn your head to look up at the ceiling. Keep your throat soft and your breathing smooth. Relax your face.
- Your breath should be steady and even. If you are having difficulty breathing smoothly, ease up on the pose and take a more gentle variation.
- Make sure your front knee does not drop inward. Keep your front thigh externally rotating, with your knee slightly drawn toward the baby toe of your front foot. Press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot.
- Hold for up to one minute. Those practicing Bird of Paradise should move directly into the pose from this full expression.
- To release the pose, press firmly through your back foot to steady yourself. Then, exhale as you gently release both hands to the mat on either side of your right foot. Step your right foot back and come into Downward-Facing Dog. Then, step your left foot between your hands and come into Warrior II. Repeat Bound Side Angle Pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Modifications & Variations
Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana is already a challenging variation on the standard pose! If you can't yet clasp your wrist in the full bind, hold onto a yoga strap with each hand. For a greater challenge as you gain flexibility, draw your top shoulder back even further so it stacks directly over your front thigh. Keep the alignment of your feet, knees, and legs as you turn your chest up toward the ceiling.
Bound Side Angle Pose will deeply stretch the entire body when practiced in correct alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Since Side Angle Pose is the foundation for Bound Side Angle Pose, it's important to get the alignment correct in Side Angle Pose first. Thoroughly review the information in the iSport guide How to Do Extended Side Angle Pose in Yoga before trying this variation!
- Keep your spine long throughout the pose. Lengthen from the tailbone to the crown of your head.
- Engage your abdomen, drawing your belly in. This will help to stabilize the pose from your core.
- Do not allow your top shoulder to drop forward in the pose. Lift your chest and broaden across your collar bones.
- Keep the outer edge of your back foot pressing firmly into the mat. Try to ensure that your back baby toe is on the mat.
- Keep your front knee aligned with your front ankle. Do not allow the knee to drift inward — this can strain the knee joint. Instead, imagine it slightly moving out toward the baby toe.
Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana will take your practice to a new level. Breathe smoothly and evenly through the pose. Remember that the ultimate “goal” of yoga is not the pose itself but your awareness of the pose. Keep your breath steady and your mind will follow. Practicing a challenging pose with a calm mind will open up new paths along your yoga journey!