Align Your Side Angle Pose with a Yoga Block

This entry was posted on Aug 13, 2015 by Charlotte Bell.

Yoga Blocks Help You Align and Lengthen

There are so many positive things to say about Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose). It promotes strength, stability, flexibility, expansion, grounding and balance. Plus it feels really great. Side Angle Pose engages every part of your body.

While Side Angle Pose may not be as glamorous as some of the backbendy, hip-openy, gymnastic poses you’ll see on Instagram, it’s a stellar staple of asana’s repertoire. If you do see Side Angle Pose on Instagram, the model usually has their bottom hand on the ground with a perfectly straight topside of their body. But many, if not most, people can’t have both. The elongated, straight line of the topside of the body is one of its defining characteristics; touching the hand to the ground is not. So in my classes we always defer to the continuous line from the back foot to the fingertips.

There are a whole lot of reasons that a person’s hand might not reach the floor without sacrificing alignment integrity. Short arms, long shins, short torso and yes, less flexibility in the hips and legs can all contribute. Whatever the reason, a Yoga Block can help you have the best of both worlds: a grounded hand and long, expanded upper body.

Here’s how:

Start by standing on a nonskid Yoga Mat. Separate your feet about a leg-length apart. Turn your entire right leg 90 degrees so that your foot points to the end of your mat. Turn your left foot, knee and leg in—facing the right leg—about 45 degrees. Allow your pelvis to turn with the leg until your left foot feels solidly grounded.

This alignment is what will create the most stable structure for your asana: Let the entire back leg—foot, shin, knee, femur and pelvis—all rotate in agreement with each other. This will look different for different people because we’re not all built the same. Your leg is in agreement with itself when your back leg feels very stable and grounded.

Extend your arms out at shoulder level. Bend your right knee into a 90-degree angle so that your knee is directly over your right heel. Your shin should be vertical.

Now extend your torso out over your right leg. Place your right forearm on your right thigh. Draw your left arm close to your head so that your arm can extend from your waist rather than just from the shoulder joint. Gently rotate your ribcage to the left so that your chest opens forward.

If you can lower your right hand to a Yoga Block behind your right foot or to the floor without sacrificing the depth or ease of your breathing feel free to experiment with this. Every yoga block has three height choices—flat (short), on its side (medium) and on its end (tall). Start with the tall dimension. If that feels good and your breathing is still free and open, you can try the medium height. If that feels fine and you’re still breathing well, you can try lying the block flat. Always defer to your ability to breathe and to the continuity of the top (left in this case) side of your body.

I often see students leaning into the hand that’s on their yoga block. This drains the energy of the pose. Instead, try rooting your hand firmly into your yoga block. Notice the difference in how the pose feels.

Stay in Parsvakonasana for five to ten deep breaths. Ground your left foot to lift up out of the pose. Turn both feet and legs forward. Settle and rest for a few breaths before moving to your second side.

Hugger Mugger has a huge selection of Yoga Blocks to choose from: cork, 3-inch or 4-inch foam, marbled foam, recycled foam or wood. Our Big Block is extra large for extra stability and comfort.

If you’d like to see more uses for Yoga Blocks, as well as how to use Hugger Mugger’s other premium props, please visit the Yoga Props Guide.

For more information about Parsvakonasana, here’s a more detailed post.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.