SIDE STRETCH POSE (Parshvottanasana)

   

Cautions: Sciatica, lower-back problems - keep the front knee bent.  High blood pressure, glaucoma, heart disease, pregnancy - avoid full forward bend.

How to perform: Begin standing in Tadasana. Turn the left foot slightly outward and take a big step forward with the right foot as far as possible. Keep the hips and torso facing forward. As you inhale, stretch the arms up over the head and keep them shoulder width apart. On an exhalation, bend forward from the hips, and place the hands on the upper shin, keeping the legs strong and straight, and the spine long and parallel to the ground. Then, if you need to intensify the stretch, bring the front torso closer to the thigh lowering the arms further down, but don't round forward to do this. Relax the neck releasing the head down. Stay in the pose for a minimum of 6 breaths. To come out of the pose, press down firmly through both feet and bring the torso and arms up to a vertical position with an inhalation. Exhale and release the arms down, turn the back heel up and step back into Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.

Do not let the front-leg hip lift up toward the shoulder and swing out to the side - soften the front-leg hip toward the ground and away from the same-side shoulder to square the hips to the front and lengthen the front-leg side of the torso. Do not lock the knees - engage the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) to pull the kneecaps upwards gently.

Do press the back heel firmly down. Create as much space in your spine as possible by reaching through the crown of the head and stretching the tailbone toward the sky.

 

What if... I feel unstable in the pose? Position the feet with an increased side-to-side width for stability, and create a firm base of support by pressing into all four corners of each foot.

 

Benefits:  Stretches the spine, hips, and back of the legs. Strengthens the front of the legs. Stimulates the abdominal and reproductive organs. Invigorates the heart, thyroid and brain. Improves posture and sense of balance. Calms the brain.
  
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