In Parsvottanasana, ‘Parsva’ means ‘Side’, ‘Ut’ means ‘intense’ and ‘tan’ means to ‘extend, stretch or lengthen’. Hence the name Intense Side Stretch Pose. This posture is performed in a standing position and when practiced regularly, brings stability and balance to the body and the mind. The mind should be at the core while practicing this intense pose. This pose is sometimes called the Pyramid Pose, which emphasizes the powerful foundation and strength engendered in this pose. Alignment and awareness of the movement of the body plays a great role in the practice of this pose.
Parsva Uttanasana is considered a base pose as parsva uttanasana variations can be derived from this pose. Parsva Uttanasana helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences.
Parsva Uttanasana Steps
1. Begin the practice by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), joining your palms in Namaste, take a few deep breaths and expand the chest to the maximum while inhaling.
2. Practice a few rounds of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar), giving the body the much needed opening along with the complete stretching. Practice about 6 rounds (3 pairs) with slow breathing.
3. With feet more than hip distance apart, stand straight and expand the shoulders and the chest out completely, placing the palms behind while they are joined in Namaste.
4. Turn the body towards the left, bringing the left foot out to about 90 degrees, and turning the right foot to about 40 degrees inwards. Adjust the knees to a comfortable position placing the feet firm on the floor. Ensure the hips and the chest are in alignment.
5. Standing with feet apart and the torso turned towards the left, with arms behind your back with palms in Anjali Mudra or in Namaste, stretch the torso upwards and take a few breaths closing the eyes. Watch the expansion of the chest and the shoulders. Root the feet firm to the floor, but make sure the knees don’t take the entire weight of the body.
6. Taking a deep breath expand the torso and while exhaling, bend the trunk forward half way first and with another inhalation and exhalation go forward and rest the head on the left knee. Exhale completely here and begin slow deep breathing.
7. Stretch the back and gradually extend the neck until the chin can touch the base of the left knee. Here tighten the knee caps and pull them upwards.
8. Stay in this yoga pose for about 6 breaths with conscious breathing. Push the chest out to the maximum taking the shoulders behind while tightening the elbows behind you to get a deeper Namaste with the palms.
9. Watch the balance of the body taking the core in mind with the weight of the body, and make sure the hips are square, with proper alignment of the foot, thighs, hips, chest and the shoulders.
10. While in this yoga pose, inhale and raise the chest and the ribs slowly and at exhale go deep down stretching and tucking the tummy while tightening the abdominal muscles.
11. The expansion of the chest should ensure full deep breathing and maintaining proper balance of the entire body.
12. To release from the pose, look up with the head tilted upwards with an inhalation, and gradually expand the torso forward and bring it up with complete exhalation. Stand bringing the hips back to the center and turn your left foot in and the right foot out. Take a few breaths here at the center releasing the arms and relax.
13. Now turn towards the right twisting the hips and bring the left foot turned inwards to about 40 degrees, and the right foot turned to about 90 degrees. Stand here taking the arms behind you with palms in Namaste, and stretch the torso up taking a few breaths here.
14. Go forward stretching the torso with the forward bend and reach for the right knee with your chin, expanding the chest and the back. Stay here for about 6 breaths and watch the stretches with slow deep breathing.
15. Release from the pose and come back to the center with the body releasing the arms from behind, and relax the body. Taking a few breaths here, prepare the body to go for the second round of practice of Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose).
16. Release and come back to Tadasana and take a few breaths here.
17. During the practice of this pose, you should mainly watch for the stretch at hamstrings of the foot in front, the chest expansion, hip flexing, shoulders backwards to take the Anjali Mudra deeper, the ankles and foot grounded and firm.
Parsva Uttanasana Benefits:
As this pose is a challenging forward bend that requires strength, stability and patience to perform safely, it brings with its practice a whole lot of other benefits which are explained below.
Stretches and Expands the entire body: Here while the torso moves downwards with a deep stretch at the shoulders, chest and the upper abdomen, the lower part of the body at the hips, hamstrings and the calves expand upwards in a deep stretch. Hence the entire body is expanded while going into the deep stretch.
Strengthens the legs, ankles, and the feet: This intense pose, along with the deep stretch at the legs, ankles and feet, strengthens the ankles and the foot rooting the foot firm to the floor in order to maintain the balance and give strength to the entire body.
Massages the internal organs improving digestion: With the pressure at the lower abdomen while pushing the chest and the tummy towards the thighs, the internal organs get a good massage improving digestion and functions of the other organs.
Balance of the body with awareness of the body: It is impossible to practice this pose if the mind wanders as Parsvottanasana requires balancing the body while taking the weight of the body at the core. For this, awareness of the body becomes essential with breathing.
Relieves arthritis of the neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists: With the deep stretch at the shoulders and the neck, this pose plays a great role in healing the initial stages of arthritis at the neck, shoulders, elbows and the wrists.
Hip joints and Spine expands: This asana not only expands the entire legs, but also the hip joints and spine. The hip muscles and the muscles around the spine become elastic with the expansion of the hips joints and the spine.
Corrects posture: The posture also corrects round and drooping shoulders, giving a great posture to the entire body.
Tones the liver and the spleen: The pressure at the abdominal area helps in the proper functioning of the internal organs and hence tones the liver and the spleen.
Cools the brain and soothes the nervous system: The calming of the mind and the body happens when the brain and the nerves are in control and this can be achieved with the practice of Intense Side Stretch Pose.
Expansion of the chest makes deep breathing easier: The most important stretch in this pose is the expansion at the chest. One must cautiously watch this expansion and work on the breathing too. This stretch makes the breathing deep while the chest expands and hence brings in a great energy flow which is a part of practice of any yoga pose.