Extended Side Angle Pose — Utthita Parsvakonasana (oo-TEE-tah PARZH-vuh-ko-NAHS-uh-nuh) — is a standing yoga pose that utilizes all of the muscles in the body. Its name comes from four Sanskrit words:
- "Utthita" — meaning "extended"
- "Parsva" — meaning "side" or "flank"
- "Kona" — meaning “angle"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
There are several variations of the pose to accommodate various levels of flexibility. It's usually simply referred to as "Parsvakonasana," or "Side Angle Pose."
Benefits of Extended Side Angle Pose
Parsvakonasana relieves stiffness in the shoulders and back. It provides a deep stretch to the groins and hamstrings, and it also improves stamina. This pose strengthens the legs, knees, and ankles, while also stretching and toning the abdominal muscles. It is known to be therapeutic for constipation, infertility, sciatica, menstrual discomfort, and low backache.
This pose requires and builds strength throughout the entire body, and is therefore best practiced closer to the beginning or the middle of a standing pose sequence. It helps to prepare the body for deeper leg and groin stretches, such as Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) and Wide-Angle Seated Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana).
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.
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 leg and 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. Align the heel of your right foot with the arch of your left foot. Keep your back leg straight. Inhale and draw your left hip slightly forward.
- 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 so your forearm rests on your right thigh.
- Reach your left arm up towards the ceiling, and then extend your arm over the top of your head. Your left bicep should be over your left ear, and your fingertips should be reaching in the same direction your front toes are pointing. Keep your chest, hips, and legs in one straight line, extended over your front leg.
- Turn your head to look up at the ceiling. Keep your throat soft and your breathing smooth. Relax your face.
- To deepen the pose, lower your front hand to the floor, placing your palm next to the inside arch of your front foot. For a deeper chest and shoulder opening, place your front hand on the outside of your front foot. You can also rest your front hand on a yoga block.
- Make sure your front knee does not drop inward. Keep your front thigh externally rotating with your knee drawn slightly toward the baby toe of your front foot. Press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot.
- Hold for up to one minute.
- To release, press firmly through your back foot. Then, exhale as you slowly come up to a standing position with your arms extended at shoulder-height. Turn your feet and body so they face the same direction, and then step your feet together. Return to the top of your mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Repeat on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing Parsvakonasana will strengthen and stretch your entire body. This pose is a good way to prepare for a deeper yoga practice, but it can sometimes be difficult for beginners to find balance and correct alignment. Try these simple modifications to find a variation of the pose that works for you:
- If it's difficult to keep your back heel on the floor, practice with your back heel against a wall. As you bend your front knee into the pose, imagine that you're pressing the wall away from you with your heel.
- If your front fingertips don't reach the floor, you can either rest your hand on a yoga block or bring your forearm to your front thigh. Be sure that your torso does not drop forward. Make the adjustment you need to keep your chest, hips, and legs aligned.
- If your hips are very tight, shorten your stance and straighten your front leg to a degree that is comfortable as you work on gaining flexibility.
- If your hips are very flexible, make sure your front shin stays vertical. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your knee does not move forward past your ankle.
To gain the benefits of Parsvakonasana, it's important to practice it with correct alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Work on getting the foot and leg placement first. Build the pose from the ground up.
- Do not allow your torso to drop forward in the pose. This often happens if you're straining too hard to reach your front fingertips to the floor. Instead of trying to touch the floor, work to keep your hips, chest, shoulders, legs, and head along the same line. Imagine that you're practicing the pose between two waterfalls. If you drop your torso forward or lean too far back, you will get wet. Work to keep your body "dry."
- Keep the outer edge of your back foot pressing firmly into the mat. Try to ensure your back baby toe is on the mat.
- Keep your front knee aligned with your front heel. Do not allow the knee to drift inward — this can strain the knee joint. Instead, imagine it slightly moving out toward the baby toe.
Expand Your Practice
Parsvakonasana can open your body in new ways. Remember to keep your breath smooth and even throughout the pose. As you focus on your breathing, allow your mind and emotions to open up, as well. By practicing challenging poses this way, you will deepen your awareness of the way yoga unites body, mind, and spirit.