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A powerful forward extension


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.

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.




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.


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


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


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