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Intense Side Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana)
With Dr Kiki Morriss
If you practice Intense Side Stretch regularly, it will bring balance and stability to your body and mind. The pose gives a deep stretch to your hamstrings, calf muscles, the back of your hips and lower back. Your pelvis will be aligned to face the top of your mat, your chest will open and your shoulders will be internally rotated, as you bring your arms into a Reverse Prayer pose.
The benefits of this pose:
- Stretches your outer hips, hamstrings, calf muscles and lower back.
- Lengthens your spine.
- Focuses and calms the mind.
- Opens your chest and the front of your shoulders.
- Internally rotates your shoulders.
- Improves the stability of your ankle joints.
- Improves your balance.
- Encourages mental focus
The classic version of Intense Side Stretch has your hands in Reverse Prayer pose. Here are some variations for your arms and hands:
- Place your hands on your hips or sacrum
- Hold opposite elbows behind your back
- Bring your hands to the ground on either side of your front foot. If your hands don’t reach the ground, you can place them on blocks.
Cautions & modifications:
- Practice this pose with caution if you have a wrist, ankle or lower back injury or if you have blood pressure issues. If in doubt, consult a qualified, experienced yoga teacher
- If you have a lower back injury, try bending your front leg a little
- If your back heel lifts as you fold into this pose, practice with your back heel pressed to a wall as this will help to keep it grounded.
- To help ground your heels and lengthen your spine, ask a partner to stand behind you and place a strap at the top of your thighs. As your partner pulls on the strap, press actively into your back heel and breathe deeply.
MOVING INTO THE POSE
- Start in Mountain pose (Tadasana). Feel grounded and steadfast, like the mountains.
- Step your left foot back about 2–3 feet with your right foot facing forwards and your left foot slightly turned out
- Bring your hands in Reverse Prayer pose behind your back.
- Inhale and lengthen your spine
- Exhale and fold forwards to bring your upper body towards your front leg and your chin to your shin.
- Your psoas muscle tilts your pelvis forwards, lifting your ischial tuberosity up and back and stretching the hamstrings of your front leg.
FOCUS YOUR GAZE
- Your dristi (focal point) is at the big toe of your front foot or at your nose. Use your gaze to help steady you in the pose.
- If it is more comfortable for you, gaze at a fixed point on the ground.
ALIGN YOUR PELVIS
- Before folding forwards, align the right and left sides of your pelvis so it is in a neutral position, facing forwards
- Use your hip and trunk flexors to draw your upper body over your front thigh.
STRETCH YOUR HAMSTRINGS
- Engage your quadriceps to straighten your knees
- Keep your legs straight to stretch your hamstrings.
KEEP GROUNDED THROUGH YOUR FEET
- Spread the weight of your body evenly across both feet
- Spread your toes to improve your balance
- Press down the outer edge of your back foot so you do not lean too much on your front leg
- Align your heels in a straight line
FOCUS ON YOUR NECK AND SHOULDERS
- Lengthen the back of your neck
- Soften your shoulders away from your ears
- Keep your shoulders parallel to the floor
PRESS YOUR HANDS TOGETHER IN REVERSE PRAYER POSE
- To bring your hands into Reverse Prayer pose, internally rotate your arms from the shoulder joints, so the palms of your hands face backwards.
- Press your hands together.
- Press your elbows in towards each other
- Lift your elbows towards the ceiling
- As you hold Reverse Prayer you will stretch the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles of your rotator cuff and your wrist flexors.
OPEN YOUR CHEST
- Broaden across the front of your chest
- Feel the pulse of your heart as you open your chest.
COMING OUT OF THE POSE
- Inhale and lift slowly to an upright position
- Repeat the pose on the other side.