Utthita Parsvakonasana

utthita = extended
parsva = side, flank
kona = angle

Extended Side Angle Yoga Pose

Utthita Pārsvakonāsana is a standing asana, which stretches and strengthens the entire body.  This āsana is one of the first asanas you will learn as a beginner on the mat. The beauty of this āsana is that even after years of practice, it provides you with new challenges and information about your body.

 Extended Side Angle Pose ( Utthita Parsvakonasana )

How To do Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana):

– Stand in Samasthiti (standing in attention position). Step out to the right.

– Raise your arms so they are parallel with the floor. Stretch the arms outwards as though you wanted to touch the sides of the room. Ensure the shoulder blades are wide and the palms facing downwards.

– Turn your right foot outwards 90˚.  Align the right heel with the arch of the left foot.  If you feel any instability, lift the arches of the feet and engage the knees and entire leg.

– Activate the muscles of your right thigh and use them to bend the right knee. Ensure that the knee does not go over the ankle and the shin is perpendicular to the ground. Take care that the knee is not dropping to the right or the left but is perfectly aligned.  If possible, bring the right thigh parallel to the floor.

– Place the right palm on the ground next to the outer blade of the right foot.

– Extend you left arm so it is diagonally over your ear. Make sure the chest is open and that you are not collapsing forward. You should feel the stretch from your left heel through your left fingertips, lengthening the entire left side of your body.

– Look downwards, release and relax the neck. Turn the head to look at the tips of the left fingers. Ensure that the neck remains long and that the left shoulder is not bunched close to the ear.

– Try not to collapse towards the ground but ensure that you are creating as much length along the right side of your torso as you do along the left.

– Attempt to bring the right side of your torso onto the right thigh or as close as possible without losing the integrity of the pose. Ensure that the outside of the left foot remains pressed into the mat. .

– Push into the left heel, pull with the left arm upwards to lighten the body and straighten the right knee to come out of the pose.

– Turn and practice the other side.

–  Stay here for 5 deep breaths. On every inhalation, reach further with the left arm, increasing the stretch on the left side of the body.  As BKS Iyengar writes in “Light on Yoga”: “Stretch the spine until all the vertebrae and ribs move and there is a feeling that even the skin is being stretched and pulled.”

Tips for Extended Side Angle Pose OR Utthita Parsvakonasana

  • Keep the inner arches of the feet active. This will balance the weight evenly throughout the feet and ensure that you do not sink downward into the lower joints.

  • Avoid lifting the outer edge of the left foot and the inner edge of the right foot.

  • Actively push the right knee back against the inner arm, this will open the hips further.  Balance this movement by tucking the tailbone inwards, pulling it towards the pubis, engaging Mula Bandha to ensure the correct alignment of the hips and pelvis.

  • Keep Mula Bandha activated to ensure that the core area is strong and you are not collapsing into the pose.

  • The chest, hips, leg and back of back should be in one line if seen from the side.

  • Use the inhalation to expand and open the ribcage creating space and then exhale continue to rotate the torso towards the ceiling using the space that the inhalation created

  • If your stance is too narrow, the knee will go over the ankle and will be vulnerable to injury. Ensure that you jump out wide enough but not too wide. This distance can only be judged by you; usually if your stretched hands are above your feet when you jump out, you will know that you have achieved the correct distance.

  • Ensure that the front knee does not go over the ankle and also that it is not dropping inwards or outwards.

  • If you are not engaging Mula Bandha, you will find the buttocks moving backwards and excess curvature in the lumbar region.  Tuck your tailbone inwards to engage Mula Bandha and return to the correct alignment.

MODIFICATIONS:

As you begin to practice this pose you might find that you can only reach your right hand to the ground when you lift the outer edge of the left foot. Instead of persisting in this method, ensure that your left foot is grounded and attempt the following modified positions of the right hand progressively until you can master the final pose.

  1. Place the right arm on the right thigh. Try to avoid dropping the weight of the upper body onto the thigh but ensure that the chest is lifting and rotating upwards.  Ensure that the inner right foot and the outer left foot remain grounded. Extend the left arm over the ear.

  2. Place the right hand on the ground along the front edge of the right foot. This will allow you to work on opening the right hip. Push the outer right shoulder into the inner right knee actively. The arm can be over your head (as in Trikonasana) to begin with. As you get comfortable in the pose, extend the left arm over the ear and stretch the left side of the body.

  3. Place a block beside the outer right foot and place the right hand gently on the block. This elevation will allow you to work on rotating the chest open and give you enough space to press into the outer left foot.  You may have to place the block vertically to begin with but slowly lower the hand to the ground by placing the block horizontally, then placing your fingertips on the mat before finally placing the palm. In every instance ensure that the weight of the body does not sink downwards into the hand but that you feel lightness in the pose.

Benefits Extended Side Angle Pose OR  Utthita Parsvakonasana

  • Increases sense of balance.

  • Increases strength in the legs.

  • Stretches and elevates pressure in the legs.

  • Stretches and tones the abdominal organs. Good remedy for constipation.

  • Release tension in the chest, expands the ribs allowing you to breath deeper.

  • Activates the feet – the inner arches and the ankles. Roots us to the ground allowing us to feel stable.

  • Increases stamina.

Contraindications and Cautions for Extended Side Angle Pose OR  Utthita Parsvakonasana :

The pose should be avoided if one has:

  • Headache

  • High or low blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • For those with pain in the neck, avoid looking upwards; ensure the neck is relaxed, look straight ahead or at the ground.

 

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