Extended side angle pose is a standing side bend pose. It’s part of one of the warrior poses in yoga, which are poses that strengthen and inspire confidence. It’s also a side bend, which stretches the side body. This pose stretches and strengthens at the same time.
It’s a pose added to most flows and is often used as a transitional pose to another more difficult yoga pose. This pose requires full-body awareness as everything in the body is being used in this pose. It’s a gentle full-body activation posture that inspires awareness and stillness.
The basics of extended side angle pose
Extended side angle pose is known in Sanskrit as Parsvakonasana. It requires perfect alignment to feel the benefits and doesn’t require any flexibility. Anybody of all levels can do the pose because it doesn’t need any particular strength or skill to get into or hold. This makes it a beginner-friendly pose.
The pose engages the entire body, and no single muscle is activated over another. However, it is used primarily to stretch the side body. The pose is used as a filler or rest pose in the middle of a flow because of how gentle it is. It mainly helps to bring a person back to their breath and focus inwards rather than getting caught up in a yoga flow and losing their breath.
The benefits of practicing extended side angle
There are so many benefits received from practicing extended side angle pose, one of the biggest being that it relieves pain and uneasiness in the back muscles. This is something that a lot of people struggle with from sitting a lot, which makes extended side angle a lovely pose to practice to gently stretch the back muscles.
It’s a deep stretch for the side body, which destresses and calms a person. It also stretches the groin and hamstrings and can help the body warm-up for more flexible poses that require hamstrings like splits. Extended side angle also helps to prepare the body for deeper and more flexible poses like butterfly that need the groin and hamstrings to be stretched.
How to do extended side angle pose
Step by step instructions for getting into the pose
- Begin in a downward facing dog. Make sure the hands are shoulder-width distance apart and the feet are hip-width distance apart. Push out through the hands.
- Raise your right leg first and gaze in between your hands. Flex the right foot and step it in between your hand. Spin the back foot parallel to the back of your mat and keep the right foot facing forwards.
- Before lifting up, make sure your right knee is stacked over your right ankle, and then slowly raise your torso so that it’s stacked over your hips.
- Lift the arms so that they’re parallel to the floor and in one long line over the legs.
- Lean forwards and reach the right hand to the inside of the right foot and come up onto your fingertips. Then lean your torso back and reach your left arm over your head so that it’s in line with your ear.
- Roll your left shoulder back and try to get your left arm in line with your left leg. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
- Slowly come out of the pose the same way you came in and step back to downward facing dog before going to the other side.
Common mistakes made when doing the pose
The biggest mistake that people make when doing extended side angle is that they roll their top shoulder forward instead of broadening the collarbone and leaning the chest back slightly. It’s an extended pose, which means everything must be lengthened and no slouching must happen.
Another thing that people do is forget about their alignment. The front knee must stay over the front ankle. The arch of the back foot should be in line with the heel of the front foot as it usually is in any warrior 2. The top arm should also be in line with the ear to maintain alignment.
This isn’t a difficult pose for beginners to do, as long as the alignment cues are remembered then it should be quite easy to get into the pose. If the ground seems too far away for the bottom hand, then try the variation with the elbow on the leg. This version of extended side angle is used mostly by beginners and is a good way to work towards the full expression of the pose. Don’t dump weight into any part of the body, engage both the front and back of the body to make this pose work.
If someone is experiencing pain or has an injury in their ankles, legs, neck, or torso then they should avoid this pose. Similarly, if any pain is felt whilst practicing extended side angle then the person should back off and try a gentler pose. Always listen to your body and never push it too far. Consult a doctor or physician before going into any physical exercise or movement.
To make extended side angle easier, there’s a common variation used in most classes where the bottom hand doesn’t go all the way to the floor. Instead, the elbow is placed on top of the knee area, and you push out of the elbow and raise the other arm up and over the head. The alignment stays the same, but the arm is in a different position.
For a harder version of extended side angle, you could do extended side angle with a bind. Going into the full version of the pose you would then internally rotate the bottom arm and take it under the front leg and around until the back of the hand is on the bottom of the spine. You would then take the top arm around so that the hands can bind, still rolling the top shoulder back and lengthening the collarbone.References: