Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana), great for lower back pain

Extended side angle is an excellent pose for those with lower back pain, as it stretches the spine, hips and opens the chest. In addition, regular practice can help to improve your balance and coordination.
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Origins of extended side angle

The origins of the pose Utthita Parsvakonasana, or Extended Side Angle pose, can be traced back to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells the reader to perform the pose by extending the side opposite of the hips. The pose is typically referred to in the Yoga Sutras as Utthita Parsvakonasana, or Extended Side Angle pose.

It is a modern yoga workout asana, where texts from the twentieth century are the first to mention the Extended side angle pose. It first appeared in Mysore, at Krishnamacharya’s yoga school.

When you are taught how to perform the extended side angle, you are taught to keep your hips square, and shoulders square to the mat, the shoulders away from the ears, and the hands in line with the wrists. The position is also quite an exceptional way to stretch the side of the body.

smiling woman doing extended side angle

Benefits

One of the benefits of the Extended Side Angle pose is that it stretches the side of the body. The side of the body is often overlooked when it comes to the benefits of yoga poses, but the extended side angle is a great way to stretch the side. The other benefit is that it strengthens the side of the body and is also a great pose to stretch the shoulders, and improve flexibility.

The primary benefits are the extension of the hips, and opening of the chest as well as the lengthening of the spine. As we have just mentioned, the widening of the hips helps to open the chest and lengthens the spine, which in turn helps to relieve any tension in the neck and the shoulders.

Extended side angle is an excellent pose for those with lower back pain, as it stretches the spine and the hips and opens the chest. In addition, practicing Utthita Parsvakonasana regularly can help to improve your balance and coordination.

Step by Step Instructions

a front view picture of a woman practicing extended side angle position

You should know that Extended side angle posture can be commenced in the Mountain pose, with the legs extended wide out and feet turned out like in Triangle pose with the arms outstretched sideways. One of your knees is bent at a right angle, and your hand on the other side is positioned behind the the foot on the ground. The upper arm would then be straightened in front of the ear in line with the torso.

There are other potential positions you can start in. Those poses are the Warrior II, and Downward facing dog. Here at hertones, we recommend starting with whichever feels more comfortable for you.

  1. Inhale and as you exhale and take a step backwards with your left foot, keeping your front foot at the top of the mat.
  2. With your palms down, lift and stretch your arms horizontally from your sides.
  3. Your right heel should be angled toward the center of your mat. The optimal angle for the foot in reference to the ankle is a matter of debate. It is fine to stand between 90 degrees and 45 degrees
  4. With knees slightly bent, form a right angle with your calf and thigh, with your thigh parallel to the floor.
  5. Rest your right forearm on the inside of your right thigh, palm facing up. Move your right hand to the inside or outside of your right foot, depending on comfort, to deepen the stretch.
  6. For increased length and to prevent putting the weight in the shoulder, place the right fingertips on the floor. It’s also nice to have a block underneath your hand. Be sure to lift the weight out of the shoulder while supporting yourself using your core.
  7. Raise your left arm above your head and reach it over your ear. Stretch through the tips of your fingers while pressing firmly against the back foot’s pinky toe.
  8. Make sure your left shoulder is positioned over your right shoulder by opening your chest. Then move your eyes to your left hand.
  9. On an inhale, lift the torso up and spread your arms. Return to tadasana by pivoting the feet and torso to face the top of the mat and taking a step forward.
  10. Do the posture over again with your left foot forward to keep the body balanced.

Common mistakes

a group of women executing the extended side angle in a yoga class

Balancing

The Extended Side Angle is a pose that requires you to have a strong core and the ability to balance on one leg. If you are having difficulty balancing, try a balance pose instead. The first mistake of performing the pose is to try to balance on only one leg.

Hips level

You can lower the hips too low. The most common reason for this is to lower the hips to increase the stretch in the side of the body, but lowering the hips too low will actually make you lose balance. You may end up falling.

Knees facing inwards

The knee joint might be stressed if your knee folds inward, which can happen if your hips are tight. Throughout the movement, keep your toes and knees aligned.

Knee ahead of your ankle

Your bent knee should not extend further along than your ankle because this will place more pressure on your knee. Maintain a straight line between your knee and your heel. To compensate for this, adjust your stance to be broader or bend your leg a little less.

Use your legs

You need to keep the brunt of your weight on your legs, and allow your lower hand to only provide a bit of assistance

Opening your chest

It may be challenging to open your chest toward the ceiling if you instead try to place your right hand on the floor and not placing the forearm on your thigh. Your chest will drop downwards as a result of reaching too far for the floor.

You can either maintain your forearm on top of your thigh or just use a block until you develop more flexibility. Put a block underneath your right hand. This extra height may be enough to open up the chest. Ensure your torso is still not resting on your leg and that you are really using your core strength to keep it lifted.

Do you need a change in the position?

When doing the extended side angle pose, if you feel neck trouble or pain when looking at your upper arm, shift your gaze to the side or maybe even down at your mat as long as your chest stays open. If your front hand does not easily reach the floor, add a block under it.

Do you want to take on a challenge?

Lift your right arm off the floor, or thigh to frame your face and push towards the front of your room. Elevate your left arm and place it behind your back. For a half bind, wrap your left fingertips around your right side and grab the inside of your right leg. If it feels fine, lift your right hand off the floor and meet your left hand behind your back for the full bind.

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