Utthita Parsvakonasana ~ Extended Side Angle Pose ~ October Pose of the Month

By Ray Long, MD, FRCSC

Anatomy of a Pose: Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Lateral Angle Pose)

This pose represents a natural progression from Virabhadrasana II—another example of continuity between poses. Imagine that in Warrior II you are taking an exaggerated step in preparation to throw a spear. Utthita Parsvakonasana would be the “follow through” of throwing the spear. We go from an erect trunk in Warrior II to one that is laterally flexing in this pose. The back arm moves from extending away from the body in Warrior II to stretching over the head in Utthita Parsvakonasana. Combining the action of the shoulder and arm with anchoring the back foot into the ground creates a stretch of the entire upper side of the body. Turn the back foot in and the front foot out ninety degrees. Straighten the back knee and externally rotate the hip. Flex the torso over the front thigh and rotate the chest upward from the abdomen. This causes the lower side of the body to shrink and the upper side to stretch. Look at how the shoulders and pelvis tilt in opposite directions, communicating with each other through the spine. Press the front foot into the floor with the weight starting at the posterior heel and spreading across the ball of the foot and toe mounds. Turn the face slightly upward and tilt the head back.

Remember that the underlying story of this pose is in the breath. Use the accessory muscles of breathing to open the chest and deepen your inhalations while relaxing into the exhalations. Turning the body activates the abdominal muscles, which work in conjunction with the internal intercostals and the elastic recoil of the lungs to aid in exhalation. Remember to ease in and out of the breath to create a sound like waves on a beach. Use ujjayi breathing.

Basic Joint Positions

•                The back foot turns in 30 degrees and supinates.

•                The front foot turns out 90 degrees.

•                The back knee extends.

•                The back hip extends and externally rotates.

•                The trunk laterally flexes and rotates up.

•                The lower-side shoulder abducts and the elbow extends.

•                The upper-side arm abducts and flexes overhead, with the elbow extending.

•                The upper-side forearm pronates.

•                The cervical spine rotates the head to face upward with the neck slightly extended.

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