How to practice: Pārśvottanāsana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

by Delight Yoga

Six simple Fundamental Asanas (postures) build the foundation of an Astanga Vinyasa Yoga practice. They are often called “standing positions” because they are composed of six relatively easy standing asanas. Pārśvottanāsana is the sixth of these fundamental postures. 

The six fundamental postures are right at the beginning of every Astanga Yoga practice. No matter how advanced you are, after five rounds of Surya Namaskara A and B, you start with these postures. Here, you carry the rhythm you have set up in Surya Namaskara A & B in a flow from asana to asana. With this solid basis, you are perfectly prepared to enter whichever series you are practising. 

Intense Side Stretch Pose is challenging not only because of the intensity of the hamstring stretch, but also because (in the full pose) the position of the arms and hands are in Anjali Mudra behind the back. So this pose, actually a deep forward bend, not only gives a good stretch to the backs of the legs, but also to the chest, shoulders, forearms, and wrists. As the mudra is so difficult for most beginning students, the pose will be described with the hands on the floor here.

Pārśvottanāsana Instructions

1. ekam
Inhale, stepping right foot back, hands into prayer behind the back
Dhristi: in the middle of the eyebrows (bhrūmadhye)

2. dve
Exhale, bending over right leg, chin to shin
Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)

- 5 breaths, Pārśvottanāsana (right side)
  Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)

3. trīṇi
Inhale, square up
Dhristi: in the middle of the eyebrows (bhrūmadhye)

4. catvāri
Inhale, turn to other side bending over left leg
Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)

- 5 breaths, Pārśvottanāsana (left side)
  Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)

5. pañca
Inhale, square up
Dhristi: in the middle of the eyebrows (bhrūmadhye)

- Exhale, release arms, step feet together at front of the mat, Samasthitiḥ
  Dhristi: to the nose (nāsāgre)


Pārśvottanāsana Benefits

- Calms the brain

- Stretches the spine, shoulders and wrists (in the full pose), hips and hamstrings

- Relieves stiffness hip joints and muscles

- Strengthens the legs

- Stimulates and tones the abdominal organs

- Improves posture and sense of balance

- Improves digestion