Extended Side Angle Pose

I`m not going to lie… Extended Side Angle Pose aka Utthita Parsvakonasana is a hard one for me!
The side stretch is just so deep that I find it hard to revolve my torso and keep my breath even.
I usually practice this pose with a block, sometimes at the highest level and as I get warmer and continue to enter the pose throughout the practice I may lower the block, get rid of it or even go for a bind.
As always listen to your body, respect the principles of alignment and give your breath priority over a form you wish to achieve.

How to get into the pose:

  • Step your feet about 4 feet apart. From deep within the hip socket, rotate the front leg out to align the front foot parallel to the long end of your mat. Pivit the back heel out, heel to arch aligned.
  • Let your hips open naturally. While both frontal hip points aim towards the long end of your mat, most hips won`t allow for a shape where the hips align parrallel, but rather the back hip will come slightly forward.
  • Bend your front knee in line with your second toe, aiming the thigh towards parallel to the floor but not exceeding the 90 degree angle where your knee is stacked over your ankle.
  • Extend your front arm in line with your front leg and place your back hand at your hip bone.
  • Lengthen both sides of the waist evenly, reaching the crown of the head towards the sky. Draw the back shoulder back as you bring the front shoulder forward to parallel the torso to the long end of your mat.
  • On an exhalation, hinge from your frontal hip crease, reach out with the front arm and extend your torso over your front leg in a single plane. Once you can`t reach any further, lower the front arm down, resting the hand on the outside of your foot on a block or the mat.
  • Extend your back arm forward in line with your ear.
  • Keep both sides of the torso evenly extended, finding length in he bottom waist.
  • Roll the bottom waist forward and the top waist back.
  • Keep your neck long. If your neck is healthy, direct your gaze past the extended upper arm.

Key actions while you are in the pose:

  • Root down through all four corners of your feet and lift up through the inner and outer arches.
  • Bend the front leg to a right angle as you lift the inner thigh and knee of the back leg up and away from the floor.
  • Move the front shin toward the calf to shift the weight into the heel.
  • Allow the pelvis to rotate slightly towards the front knee and align the front knee with the second toe.
  • Firm the front buttock in and under as you press the femur of the back leg straight back.
  • Imagine you could pull the feet towards each other to activate your inner thighs.
  • Lift the frontal hip bones up and lengthen the buttocks down.
  • Pin the back hip and and lift the front hip and waist up and off the thigh.
  • Lift through the top of the sternum as you release the bottom front ribs toward the hip bones.
  • Press the shoulderblades into the chest and spread the collarbones.
  • Roll the skin of the extended upper arm down towards the floor until the pinky finger side of the hand is lower than the thumb.
  • Relax the area where your neck and shoulders meet.