Breaking Down the Pose – Parsvottanasana

Have you ever been telling your friend about a yoga class you took and been annoyed when their response was “I just don’t think yoga is a real workout”. Well so have we, and we 100% attribute it to people not fully understanding the small intricate movements that force them to work a lot harder in each pose.

Our pose breakdown series shows a visual of the big cues you should be focusing on, as well as highlighting the benefits and risks of the featured poses. Feel free to share with your skeptical friends to help them advance their own practices.

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Parsvottonasana is an intense side stretch pose. If done correctly this pose can be very difficult even to an advanced practitioner. The foundation of this pose is in the legs. We start with heel to heel alignment with the front foot pointing straight forward and the back foot angling out about 45 degrees.

Lower Body:

The challenging part of this pose is keeping the hips squaring forward and firming the hips into the midline. The front quadricep is engaged and the kneecap lifted (be sure not to hyperextend the leg). The back leg is firmly planted pressing the femur back and rolling the outer thigh forward.

Upper Body:
The body parts above the waist are moving in an opposite direction of the lower waist. While the lower body is firmly rooted down, the upper body is lengthening forward and evenly across the sides of the waist. The shoulders should be lifting up and pulling away from the ears andthe neck lengthening evenly forward. The arms are in reverse prayer behind your back (modifications if you have tight shoulders  is clasping opposite elbows behind your back or making fists and touching the knuckles behind your back.)

A common mistake we see in this pose is the hips not being squared. You can test this by placing a block on your lower back or feeling if your sacrum is parallel to the floor. We also see a tendency to round the upper back when a student is less flexible in the hamstrings.

Parsvottanasana is a great pose as is prepares us for inversions, forward bends and backbends. It is also both an intense hamstring stretch and hip strengthener. Melanie Meltzer does a great job of breaking down this pose in her “Simple, Not Easy, but Fast” yoga class online.  

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