Parsva: costado – Uttana: intenso – Asana: postura
Parsvottanasana, otherwise known as Intense side stretch pose and Pyramid pose, is a standing pose with a forward bend and a test of balance too.
1. From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), inhale to step your right foot back and turn it out 45 degrees. Keep both legs straight.
2. Exhale to settle your feet into the earth. Inhale to spread your toes to help activate your legs. Maintaining firm legs, exhale to move the tops of your thighs back and widen your sitting bones apart.
3. Square your hips by moving your left hip back and your right hip forward. Exhale and make your legs longer by rooting down through your bones.
4. Inhale to lift your chest; on an exhalation, elongate your spine forward as you fold from your hips. Place your hands on the floor to either side of your left leg. If you’d like to go deeper into the pose, bend your elbows—just be sure to hinge at your hips rather than your spine (you can assess your posture with a mirror or a friend). If you are able to maintain length in your spine, rest your forehead on your shin.
5. Hold for several deep breaths, maintaining the extension in your spine.
6. To release, exhale to step your right foot forward into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Inhale as you come up to Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
The balancing element makes me focus and concentrate. The forward bend element calms my mind and draws my attention more inward, so I usually like to practice Parsvottanasana after more active standing poses. I personally find it also helps me with menstrual cramps along with all the other benefits like strengthening and stretching the legs.
What I really like about teaching this pose is that you can easily adapt it to make it accessible for more people:
You can bend the front knee if you feel too much sensation in the hamstrings, or if you tend to lock your knee (so that the back of the knee bulges out).
Instead of coming into a fold you can keep the back parallel with the floor and go for length in the spine – like in the main image. This is a great “decompression” for the spine plus it uses core strength and prepares you for Parivrtta Trikonasana/ Revolved Triangle pose.
The full version of the pose is folding over the front leg with the hands behind the back in a reverse prayer position. This is a strong shoulder opener but can be too tough on the wrists so instead you can hold your opposite elbows behind your back, or bring your hands to the floor or blocks. I often recommend this variation for runners as a warm-up or cool down – with the front leg bent as needed
Finally, I think this pose is great for teaching body awareness and a sense of where your body is in space, particularly in the hips. It’s very common to see students swinging the right hip to the side (when the right leg is in front).
A quick tip is to press the feet into the earth actively throughout the whole duration of the pose, to maintain the hip positioning to the front of the mat. Especially push down through the ball of the front foot to bring that hip back. Also firm the outer hips in towards the midline of the body.
DRISHTI: the nose (nasagrai)
BENEFITS: This posture reduces the accumulation of fat in the waist, massage and stimulates the abdominal organs, tones and stretches the muscles of the legs and corrects the fallen shoulders
THE KEY: Equalize weight on both legs, apply bandhas, keep hip aligned.