Parsvottanasana: Intense Side-Stretch Pose
By Ray Long, MD, FRCSC • March 31st, 2011 • 17711 Views
In Parsvottanasana, the pelvis rotates to face the front leg. I place this pose after Ardha Chandrasana to create continuity in the sequence. Later in the practice we rotate the pelvis further, so that this type of pose fits naturally in a sequence that moves from the pelvis facing forward, to turning to face the front leg, to rotating into a twisting pose such as Parivrtta Trikonasana. Turning the pelvis changes the orientation of the muscle fibers in the back-leg gluteals and front-leg hip flexors, activating the muscle from every direction. This illustrates how designing your yoga practice to have continuity yet change awakens muscle groups efficiently, making the whole of the practice greater than the sum of its parts.
The focal point of the stretch in Parsvottanasana is the front-leg hamstrings. Remember to firmly engage the quadriceps and hip flexors to stimulate reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings; observe how engaging these muscles changes the sensation of the stretch. A subplot of this pose is the stretch of the back-leg hamstrings and gastrocnemius. The position of the pelvis, back hip, and back foot create a unique opportunity to stretch these muscles. Augment this stretch by attempting to drag the back foot away from the front foot on the mat, opening the back of the knee.
The classical version of Parsvottanasana has the hands in prayer position (namasté) on the back. This is one example of the ancient yogis devising a way to stretch some of the more hidden and difficult-to-access muscles—the external rotators of the shoulders, including the infraspinatus and teres minor, as well as elements of the deltoids and other muscles. Be careful not to put undue pressure on the extended wrists in this pose.
Basic Joint Positions
- The back foot rotates inward 30 degrees and supinates.
- The front foot rotates out 90 degrees.
- The trunk flexes.
- The front hip flexes and externally rotates.
- The back hip internally rotates.
- The knees extend.
- The shoulders internally rotate.
- The wrists extend.
- The cervical spine flexes slightly.
Begin by positioning the hands in reverse namasté while standing in Tadasana or with the feet apart. Do not force your hands into this position, as you can injure your wrists (do not let anyone else force your hands into this position either). Roll the shoulders forward to release the external rotators. Take advantage of this release and move your hands higher up the back; then roll your shoulders back again. If you are...
Yoga for Beginners, yoga anatomy, Parsvottanasana, yoga pose, yoga forward bend