How To: Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)

Stand at the top of your mat in Tadasana.


Step your left leg back 3.5 to 4 feet (1 meter approximately). Keep your hips facing the front of your mat. Right foot pointing forward, left foot slightly turned out.

Keep 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.
Keep your hips  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. Gaze towards your 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 of the pose, actively push through the back heel. Engage the core and pull the tailbone down as you come up with a straight back.
Muscles activated:

  • Psoas, tilts the pelvis forward, lifting the ischial tuberosity (the origin of the hamstrings) up and back.
  • Rectus femoris muscle, (one of the heads) crosses the hip joint. When you engage the quadriceps to straighten the knee, this muscle synergizes the psoas in flexing the hip.
  • Abdominals engaged, including the rectus abdominis, to flex the trunk forward.
  • Quadriceps
  • Peroneus longus and brevis muscles on the outside of the leg to evert the ankle and press the ball of the foot into the mat.
  • Tibialis anterior to dorsiflex the ankle, and the tibialis posterior to invert the foot. This creates reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings and gastrocnemius/soleus complex, allowing them to relax into the stretch. Augment this stretch by attempting to drag the back foot away from the front. This cue stimulates the back-leg gluteals and adductor magnus to contract. The force of the contraction is transmitted to the back of the knee, further stretching the hamstrings and gastrocnemius/soleus complex.
  •  Muscles used to bring the hands into namasté position on the back – Contraction of Lower pectoralis major
  • Anterior deltoids, the muscles that lift the arms overhead, also internally rotate the shoulders.
  •  Subscapularis muscles on the insides of the shoulder blades contract to rotate the shoulders inward.
  • Biceps, synergizing the subscapularis. (When elbows are bent)

Stretches the legs, hips, spine, shoulders and wrists.
Strengthens the legs and knees.
Improves balance and digestion.
Stimulates the abdominal organs and digestion.
Calms the mind.
Precautions & Contraindications:

  • If you have a back injury or high blood pressure avoid the full expression of this pose. You can keep your torso parallel with the floor.
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Pregnancy

Any seated forward bending and revolved postures are great follow up poses.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Staff Pose (Dandasana)

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