The Extended Side Angle Pose, or Utthita Parsvakonasana, is a position which does not only ground you and makes you more aware of your body, but it also strengthens it to its core. Being a strong activator of the Heart Chakra, the pose promotes free thinking, mindfulness and imagination. Naturally, it also gives a great stretch to the hamstrings, quadriceps, psoas as well as the upper body muscles.
1.) Begin in Mountain Pose, standing tall with your hands by your side, feet together.
2.) Take a breath and lift your hands up over your head pointing to the sky.
3.) In one swift motion extend your right leg out about two to three feet on the mat so that your right foot is parallel to your left foot, at the same time bring your arms out to your side so they are also parallel to the mat. Your palms should face the mat. Make sure that your legs and arms are engaged .
4.) With your gaze following your right extended arm, bend your right leg and keep your left leg straight like a lunge. You may need to walk your right foot forward a bit. Be sure that your knee never comes over your toes.
5.) Take a moment here and breathe. Now lean forward over your right knee and slowly, with straight, engaged arms, bring your right hand down to your right ankle, palm facing away from your ankle. Your right arm should be near your ankle, while your left arm points up to the sky. Your gaze should be up to your left arm and your right hand should not be resting on the floor, just lightly resting against your ankle.
6.) Now move your left arm, keeping it engaged, to a 45-degree angle over your head. Your shoulder should be against your ear, gaze should be up at your arm.
Extended Side Angle Pose is a true body strengthening. It lengthens and stretches whole muscle groups including the muscles of the legs (the quadriceps, the psoas and the hamstrings), the muscles of the lower and upper back as well as the muscles of the upper body. Additionally, you may modify this pose to target specific muscle groups including your shoulders and legs, as well as hold the pose for an extended period of time to really focus on muscles.
Extended Side Angle Pose provides a deep, solid stretch of the hips, the hamstrings and the quadriceps which can prepare a practitioner for more advanced yoga poses. Practice modifications of this pose to deepen the stretch and truly open your hips by practicing this pose back to back to really lengthen the hip flexors and surrounding muscles.
Extended Side Angle Pose is a known heart opener which means it creates a lot of space in the upper body, extends the chest and stretches the shoulders so that potentially the lungs can get more air inside the body. It only supports the opening of the Heart Chakra.
As mentioned above, Extended Side Angle Pose stimulates the Heart Chakra which allows us to fully connect with our personal inner energy: our mind, our souls and our train of thoughts. It allows us to get to know who we are, what we need and hence, it clears our thoughts and propagates healthy imagination. Additionally, Extended Side Angle Pose can be a demanding and difficult pose for those with muscle soreness, encouraging the practitioner to truly focus and engage their body.
With this variation, you can adjust the level of the stretch with the help of a yoga block. Place it horizontally or erectly according to your personal goals and needs while performing the rest of the pose as follows and rest your hand on the block while holding the position. This can help people with tight muscles, limited flexibility and problems balancing attain the pose without breaking the integrity.
This is to provide an even deeper stretch to the shoulders and open the heart more. Starting from the original pose, bring the lifted arm to your back. Next, thread the second arm under the thigh of the bent leg so that the hands of both arms can meet at your back and touch as if in a prayer. Press your hands against the back for deepening the pose and lengthening the spine more. In this variation, the trunk is aligned with the extended leg, same for the neck and the head. However this time gaze at the floor, the crown of the head still pointing forward.
Starting from the standard Extended Side Angle Pose, bend the lower arm and lightly place its elbow in the knee area of the bent leg, fingers pointing to the side of the leg. It provides a different, more mild stretch.