Pose of the Month: Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)
Sanskrit Name and meaning (parsh-voh-tahn-AHS-anna) parsva = side ut = intense tan = to stretch or extend asana = pose
Step 1 -Step or lightly jump your feet 3 to 4 feet apart. Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees and your right foot out to 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. If you find it hard to balance, widen your stance. Step 2 - Square the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat. Ground the back foot by pressing into the outer border of your foot, including the heel. Energetically squeeze the thighs towards each other. Step 3 -Fold your torso over the right leg until the torso is parallel to the floor. Keep your sacrum flat to maintain symmetry in your torso. Press your fingertips to the floor on either side of the right foot. If it isn’t possible for you to touch the floor, support your hands on a pair of blocks. Press the thighs back and lengthen the torso forward.
Step 4 -Hold your torso parallel to the floor for a few breaths. Then, if you have the flexibility, bring the torso closer to the top of the thigh. Eventually connect your forehead to your knee or shin. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Step 5 -Press actively through the back heel and lift your torso up on an inhale breath. Repeat with the left leg forward, right leg back.
Benefits of the pose:
Calms the brain
Stretches the spine, hips and hamstrings
Strengthens the legs
Stimulates the abdominal organs
Improves sense of balance
If you have a back injury or high blood pressure, avoid the full forward bend. Instead set up a couple of feet from and facing a wall. With an exhalation lower your torso parallel to the floor and reach your hands out to the wall. Press your palms actively into the wall.
If you find your back heel lifting as you bend into this pose, practice with your back heel pressed to a wall