Being partly a forward bend and partly a balancing pose, Parsvottanasana is a mid-way pose between Parivrtta Trikonasana and Utthita Trikonasana. This asana is called the Intense Side Stretch in English. It is also popularly called the Pyramid Pose because it resembles a pyramid.It requires intense focus and a very calm mind to balance and stay in correct alignment.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
This asana must be performed on an empty stomach. You must have your meals at least four to six hours before you practice yoga. You must also make sure that your bowels are empty. Do not practice this pose if you have a hamstring injury. If you have a shoulder or wrist injury, do not practice the full version of the pose (do not reach your arms behind your body). Instead, practice with your arms forward with your hands resting on blocks or on the floor. Women who are pregnant and those with back injuries or high blood pressure should practice the pose against a wall.
How To Do The Parsvottanasana : Step-by-Step Instructions
- 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.
- Make sure that your hips are squared with the mat.
- 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.
Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your hips squared throughout the pose.
- Lengthen the front of your torso from your breast bone to your navel.
- Keep the crown of your head reaching forward as you simultaneously extend your tail bone behind you.
- Note that your feet are significantly closer together than they are in other standing poses, such as Warrior I or Triangle Pose. Take your time getting the correct foot placement. Then, as in every standing pose, work the pose from the ground up.
There’s a middle position for the hands and arms, between having the hands on the floor and pressing them together behind the back. Simply cross the arms behind the back, parallel to the waist. Hold each elbow with the opposite hand. When the right leg is in front, bring the right arm around behind the back first; when the left leg is in front, bring the left arm first.
Modifications & Variations
Try these simple changes in the pose to find a variation that works for you:
- The full version of the pose is performed with the hands behind the back and the palms pressed together in prayer position (Anjali Mudra). If that option is not attainable for you yet, cross your arms behind your waist and clasp each elbow with the opposite hand. Fold the opposite arm on top when you change leg position.
- If you have a shoulder or wrist injury — or if you would just like to lighten the backward bending aspect of the pose — release your arms forward to the floor instead of reaching behind. Rest your hands on blocks if your hands don’t easily rest on the floor.
- If you are having trouble balancing, step your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart.
- For a deeper shoulder stretch, try this variation: From the full pose, release your hands and extend your arms behind you. Then, interlace your fingers behind your back. Exhaling, drape your torso over your front thigh and reach your clasped hands up and over the top of your head. Keep your arms straight as you do this variation.
- If your back heel lifts in this pose, practice with that heel pressed against a wall. You can also fold your yoga mat and press your heel into the cushioning, or place a firm, folded blanket beneath the heel.
- Some yoga traditions and teachers will instruct you to keep a flat back throughout the pose; others will tell you to drape your torso forward, dropping your head. Note that there is no right or wrong variation — but if you’re in a class, follow the instruction your teacher gives. He or she is instructing you that way for a reason!
- If you are pregnant, or if you have a back injury or high blood pressure, practice this pose against a wall. This variation is called Half Pyramid Pose or “Ardha Parsvottanasana” (in Sanskrit, “Ardha” means “half”). Stand few feet away from the wall you are facing. Exhale as you lower your torso until it is parallel to the floor, while also extending your arms forward. Press your palms against the wall, with your fingers pointing upward. Your arms should be fully extended. Keep the front of your torso long.
Benefits Of The Parsvottanasana
- It relaxes and calms the brain.
- It gives the shoulders, spine, wrists, hamstrings, and hips a good stretch.
- The legs become strong.
- It massages the abdominal organs.
- This poseHow To Do Intense Side Stretch Pose
- helps improve the body posture, and also maintains a sense of balance in your body.
- It improves digestion.
- It also stimulates the reproductive organs and reduces menstrual and menopausal symptoms.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Gomukhasana (especially the arm position)
Supta Baddha Konasana
The more you practice Pyramid Pose, the more confidence you’ll gain in your ability to balance. Simultaneously forward bending and backward bending requires patience and a lot of concentration! But with dedication to your practice, you will strengthen your legs, lengthen your spine, and develop clarity and grace that endures.