What is Parsvottanasana?
Known as the pyramid pose or intense side stretch in English, Parsvottanasana, this pose provides a blend of balance, stretch and calmness. It works wonders on stretching out the hamstrings, while also massaging the abdominal organs and aiding digestion.
Position type: Standing
Posture type: Stretch
Ideal for: Balance and flexibility
Targets: Hips, legs, spine
Pose level: Beginner
How to prepare for Parsvottanasana?
The pyramid pose is a beginner-level asana and can be practiced soon after warm-ups and Surya Namaskars. However, to improve hip flexibility and balance, the following should be practiced regularly.
Loosen up tight hamstrings and quadriceps by practicing the downward-facing dog pose, standing forward fold, high lunge, low lunge, gate pose, garland pose, bound angle pose, bow pose and pigeon pose regularly. These asanas will stretch and improve flexibility in the hip region.
Improving balance is helpful in holding the posture with stability and for a longer period of time. Postures such as the standing forward fold, low lunge, high lunge, tree pose, gate pose and eagle pose are helpful in building balance.
How to do Parsvottanasana?
Getting into the posture
- Stand in Tadasana, the mountain pose. Take your left leg back, about three feet apart from your right. The right foot should be facing forward and the left foot slightly turned outwards.
- Keep the hips facing the front of the mat. Your knees should be pointing towards the toes. Ensure your feet are strong and stable on the mat and keep the legs engaged.
- Now, place your hands in a prayer position behind your back.
- Inhale, lengthen your spine, and as you exhale, fold forward from the hips.
- Do not allow your back to round. You can slightly roll the left thigh inward and keep the right hip back.
Getting out of the posture
- After holding the pose for a few deep breaths, slowly come back up and release the hands.
- When coming up, press the legs into the mat, keep the core engaged and spine straight.
- Now repeat the asana with the other leg forward.
Key alignments in Parsvottanasana
Ensure that the back leg is turned outwards a little bit, while both feet should remain strongly grounded on the mat. Keeping the feet, legs and core engaged will help you practice with control. The spine should remain straight. If you feel the back rounding, then do not go further towards the leg. Stop before the back curves.
What are the benefits of Parsvottanasana?
The pyramid pose offers a blend of balance, surrender, peace and calm. Physically, it stretches the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles, providing a stretch to the entire legs and hips. The back, shoulders and wrists also get a strong stretch. The legs and core benefit from the strengthening effect, while the abdominal organs get massaged, improving digestion.
What are the contraindications of Parsvottanasana?
Ensure you do not lock the knees or the hip joint. You can micro-bend your knees if the hamstrings feel too much of a strain. Avoid the prayer position if you have a back or shoulder injury. Instead, hold each elbow with the opposite hand or place the hands on the hips. Also, avoid folding lower than a place of comfort in this case. Pregnant women should avoid the asana.
Variations of Parsvottanasana
- Grab the elbows with the opposite hands behind your back if the prayer position is difficult.
- You can also keep the hands on the hips for better balance.
- Try the pose by keeping the arms outstretched along the ears.
- Lift the back heel to increase the balancing challenge.
- Lift the arms out to the side by keeping the elbows bent. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at inhalation. This will work the back muscles more, making them stronger.
Advice for beginners
- Apply one of the variations for the arms initially (holding the elbows or arms on the hips), instead of the reversed prayer position.
- If the hamstring stretch is too intense, bend the front leg a little bit.
- Ground the feet and keep the legs engaged to keep the hips facing forward.
- As this is a balancing asana, it is advisable to keep the eyes open in the final position.
- Keep your attention on the hips, back and arms. In case of any discomfort, gently come out of the pose.
- Start slow and work your way towards the challenging variations.
Learn how to practice Parsvottanasana the right way, with modification and props, from an experienced teacher LIVE on Shvasa.