Intense Side Stretch – Parsvottanasana

Step by step to get into the intense side stretch

  • From Tadasana step your left leg back about 1 meter (3 or 4 feet). Keep your hips facing the front of your mat. Right foot pointing forward, left foot turned out about 45 degrees.
  • Line your knees up with the center of your ankles, pressing the outside of your left foot actively into the floor, engage your legs by pulling up the knee caps and thighs into the hips.
  • Place your hands in reversed prayer position behind your back.
  • Inhale, lengthen your body. Exhale gently. Hinging from the hips, lean your torso forward over the right leg. Rolling the left thigh inward, while keeping your right hip back. Stop when your torso is parallel to the floor.
  • If your spine is still straight you can continue to fold over the right leg, bringing your belly towards your thighs, keeping your spine as long as possible. Your gaze is to the foot.
  • If your back begins to round, stop half way and take a few breaths.
  • Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, than change side.
  • To come out actively push through the back heel engage the core and pull the tailbone down as you come up with a straight back.

Tips for beginners

  • Instead of bringing the palms together behind the back in reversed prayer postion you can hold your elbows behind your back or have your hands on your hips.
  • If you feel too much of a stretch on the hamstrings bend the front leg slightly.
  • Think about keeping the hips level with each other, often the hip of the front leg swings out to the side. Pressing through the ball of the front foot will help to square the hips.

Benefits of the intense side stretch

  • Stretches the legs, hips, spine, shoulders and wrists.
  • Strengthens the legs and core.
  • Improves balance and digestion.
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs and digestion.
  • Calms the mind.

Pay attention to

  • Don’t round forward from the waist. Keep the back extended and hinge from the hips.
  • Take care of your knees. You can keep a slight bend in the legs to avoid hyperextending or locking the knee joint.
  • If you have a back injury or high blood pressure avoid the full expression of this pose. You can keep your torso parallel with the floor.

Variations to try

  • You can practice with different arm variations, such as holding opposite elbows, keeping the hands on the hips or arms outstretched alongside the ears.
  • Try the pose with the back heel lifted.
  • Add in some extra work for the back muscles by lifting the arms out to the sides (elbows bent) and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Exhale and lower the arms, inhale and repeat lifting the arms back up to shoulder height. Do this three or four times.

Text by: Esther Ekhart, Ekhart Yoga