Side Angle: Ground and Stretch

Side AngleWobble and collapse are what I often see when beginners do Side Angle Pose – Parsvakonasana. It looks like they want to extend the front leg and bend the back knee. At the same time, they still want to rest their whole chest on the front thigh, hoping it would feel lighter to hold the pose, and their breathing looks so congested. Actually Side Angle Pose is the opposite way of what they do.

Be Grounded

Every standing pose needs a strong foundation, including Side Angle Pose. Different schools of yoga suggest different feet position of Side Angle. For beginner, I suggest to have heel-to-arch position, front foot’s heel in line with back foot’s arch, because, for those who have tight hips, it creates less tension in your sacroiliac joints behind the pelvis. Turn the back foot in at least 90 degree angle, at the same time turn your front foot out until second toe point straight forward. Inhale and open your arms outstretch to the side, parallel to the floor and palms facing down. Notice that now you are in Warrior 2 Pose – Virabhadrasana 2.

The distance between two feet of Side Angle depends on the flexibility of your groins. However, after you exhale and bend the front knee, you should have it stacking over the ankle, shin perpendicular to the floor. This also means you need to put some effort to roll the front thigh out, otherwise the knee will fall in to the big toe side of the front foot.

Keep the back leg straight and ground the foot. The outer edge of the back foot should touch the floor; otherwise you need to shorten your stance. Spread your toes wide and press down through the inner heel. See if this pressing action activates and draws the energy up your powerful back leg. This energy stabilizes you, prevents you from standing wobbling. And you are going to use this energy later when you stretch your side torso in the next step of Parsvakonasana.

Stretch Your Side

The other function of Side Angle Pose – Parsvakonasana is to stretch the side torso. However, it does not mean to collapse one side to stretch the other side the way in which you would limit your breathing.

On your next exhalation, reach forward through the fingertips of front arm but keep your lower body, from the pelvis down to your feet, staying the same. This is to maintain your side torso long. When you bring the hand down, you move at your shoulder joint, touch the floor either inside or outside the foot without collapsing the side torso onto the front thigh, otherwise put a block underneath your hand. Therefore, your ribcage does not collapse onto the front thigh, still having a small gap in between.

Now it is time to use the energy you are drawing up your back leg. As you press your back foot down actively, reach the top arm over your ear. Fix your back leg and hips there and then turn your torso upward. Simultaneously roll your top arm down close to your ear. So your torso and top arm are isometrically rotating against each other, you should feel like you are closing your armpit but it is not really closed. Turn the palm facing down and, traditionally, look up at the fingertips.

Hold Side Angle Pose for at least 5 breathes. Focus on the grounding action of your back foot, activate your back leg in each inhalation; stretching your side torso up to the fingertips in each exhalation. That is the way you maintain the energy flow from the back foot up the leg, side torso, and arm to the fingertips. After finish your 5 breathes, you come out of the pose the opposite way you go in and do the other side.

Parsvakonasana – Side Angle Pose, just like other standing pose, strengthens your leg muscles. It also improves your groin and hip flexibility. Moreover, Side Angle stretches your side torso and the intercostals, the muscle in between your ribs, which is the breathing support muscle.

Model: Pin in Parsvakonasana