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Parsvottanasana

A powerful forward extension

parsvottanasana1

Parsvottanasana is a powerful stretch to the entire back muscles of the forward leg and often a good stretch of the calf muscles on the back leg. In addition, the spine is lengthened and balance is improved.

As it is one of the strongest of the forward bends, the body needs to be fairly well warmed up before it is attempted. The goal of this asana is to fully extend the back of the forward leg and to lengthen the spine. Note it's not about touching forehead to knee, that action can be injurious.

Sometimes it's nice to alternate this pose before or after trickonasana and I recommend that students are reasonably capable of doing this pose before attempting to do parivitta trikonsana.  As with the other primary standing poses, transfer your body from tadasana to having your feet, leg length apart and turning both feet so that they are as close to parallel as you can have them.

Traditional Instruction:

  • From tadasana, open the feet to a metre wide,
  • Pivot one foot out 90° and the other heel back 60°
  • Bring your hands into prayer position behind your back
  • Turn your hips and torso 90° and square to the line between your feet
  • Tuck your coccyx under and open your chest
  • The maintain the openness of your front torso as you lift your tail, fold from the hips to bring the crown of your head toward your forward foot.

In the above right image, this gentleman is working well and it's a matter of time before his front torso down along his leg. Even though this is an expert interpretation of the pose, the chin could be tucked in and the neck lengthened.

This is challenging and as you see in the videos below, there are easier options and see the notes below for more advise.

Variations:

 

Variations:parsvottanasana3

In the right image, lifting the backheel negates the strong stretch in the calf muscles of the back leg and while some see this is cheating, it's an alternative when there is injury to the Achilles tendon or calf muscle.

The ultimate hands position in the image below is a nice option whereby you can learn to adjust and link from the front of the body in a slightly different way.

parsvottanasana

Having the hands extended out beyond the feet as in this final image takes the intensity of the stretch to new levels but you can see here that it's excellent for lengthening out the back and we must remember that the idea is to get the stretch from the heel of the back foot through the entire back body to the crown of the head.parsvottanasana2

Comment

Initially I had real difficulty maintaining my balance when attempting this pose. I had not done the full pose like this before. I am now finding that as I have practised it further, my balance is becoming better – but I do still lose my balance sometimes. I think it is the namaste hand position, in combination with the forward bend that puts me off balance. On rereading Light on Yoga, I think I should be practising with my wrists gripped behind my back until I am able to hold this pose more easily. I think I have resisted doing it this way though as I like trying to do namaste behind my back! I see that holding the wrists will be useful to remember not just for myself but also for taking others through this pose.

Also I was omitting the “middle” part of this pose – moving the head and trunk toward the left by swinging the trunk around the hips. I now include this and enjoy the sensation – so long as I can maintain balance! Cath

Notes:

With your feet parallel, of course, if they are in line, balance will be difficult. Therefore the feet can actually be placed hip width part.

The advanced option is to have your palms together behind your back, but for beginners is sometimes wise to simply have their hands on their hips so they can focus on their balance in getting the correct rotation of their hips.

When beginners are able to fold forwards, they can either rest the hands on their leg, or if they are very stiff, use a wall or the back of a chair.

Classically, this pose has been taught with the feet in the classic position as for trikonasana. However, with the back foot turned out like that, it is impossible for anyone to square off their hips.

parsvottWhere we have someone as in this left image who really is going out on a limb, just to try this out. They need every encouragement and this is a case where it would be best for them to have their hands resting on the back of a chair and work towards getting the correct for position and straight legs.

Even by having their hands on the back of a chair as the chess drops down, they will still experience some of the shoulder opening that is normally gained by having palms together behind the back.

parsvott_2This gentleman is even more ambitious. He is sensibly keeping the forward leg slightly flexed to avoid overstretching's hamstrings, however, his feet could be wider apart in the backheel turned away far more.

There is no harm in beginners flexing in the like . This as it will help them to prevent overstretching and straining themselves.

As one of the things about teaching as the, when someone hurts themselves in your class is quite probable way will see it as being your fault, even though they may not be following your instructions.

What is worse about this pose as the collapse in the waist. Following the arms together behind the back is a typical beginners option and it is a kind of mental drive that kind of makes people want to get this head down to their knee. This ambition runs contrary to the spirit of yoga. Therefore, as the lady above, this judgement would be best to work with his hands resting on the back of a chair until his hamstrings have sufficiently lengthened and his mind has adapted to allow him to work in this pose.

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