Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Bring some strength to your leg stretches with Parsvottanasana, Intense Side Stretch
Often overlooked, Parsvottanasana can help us to stretch further into our forward folds.
Parsvottanasana can feel quite tough, but rest assured it’s giving lots of benefits such as stretching the spine, hips and hamstrings, as well as strengthening the legs. We work the core in this pose too to help bring length in the spine and stability in the hips, which helps to stimulate abdominal organs and improve our posture and balance.
If you have a back injury or high blood pressure, you can perform Ardha (half) Parsvottanasana facing a wall, and instead of going into the full forward fold you can place your hands flat to the wall in front and your torso parallel to the floor.
Below are a few poses to help you prepare for Parsvottanasana – click the links below to see videos / blogs with step by step guides for each pose:
Step By Step Guide
Start in Tadasana, hands on hips with feet hip width apart. Step back with your left leg so that your foot lands just short of a leg-length’s distance from your right foot. Turn your left toes out at around 45 degrees and make sure your hips are still parallel to the front edge of your mat.
If you suffer from a sore spine or problems with the neck/shoulders, keep your hands on your hips, otherwise raise your arms overhead as you take a deep inhale. When you inhale make sure that you are letting the front of the torso become long and that the spine is strong and upright. As you exhale, start to hinge forwards at your hips (not at your waist) and swan dive your chest forwards and towards your toes. You can land your hands either side of your feet or on bricks either side of your feet if your legs feel tight. Roll weight into the outside edge of your back foot so that the back leg becomes active and strong, maintain this effort for the rest of the pose.
From here its a good idea to take a slight bend in your front knee and extend your chest forwards with an inhale, so that you can get length to your torso again and flatten off your upper spine. As you exhale, look to lift your right hip up and back in order to lengthen (not necessarily straighten) your front leg. Be warned people with knees that like to hyper-extend and lock out! Your knees will want to lock into position here, to save the joint from long term damage and to bring the stretch back into your leg muscles, make sure you keep a micro bend in your knee!
Hold this pose for 6 breaths, constantly looking to lengthen your right hip up and back so that both sides of your hips become level and the right side of your waist, from hip to armpit, is as long as the left side.
To come out of this pose, place your hands on your hips or bring your arms with your ears, keep your legs and torso really strong as you lift yourself through to upright on an inhale, then exhale to release your arms to your side, step forwards and come back to Tadasana.
We’ll be practicing in class this week so come along and give it a try for yourself
Give it a go! Remember it’s not all about flexibility, so you can challenge yourself with the strengthening aspect too.