If I had to pick yoga’s most complicated yoga asana—among the more commonly practiced poses—Parvrtta Parsvakonasana (Rotated Side-Angle Pose) would get my vote.
Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is a Warrior Pose, a twist and a balance pose. Its benefits are many. According to Yoga Journal, practicing Rotated Side-Angle Pose:
- Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles
- Stretches the groins, spine, chest and lungs, and shoulders
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Increases stamina
- Improves digestion and aids elimination
- Improves balance
Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is commonly practiced in many popular classes, including fast-paced vinyasa classes. Even if you prefer moving quickly through sequences, it can be helpful to slow it down sometimes. Practicing a step-by-step process to move into the pose stabilizes your base and helps you avoid some of the possible back and hip problems that can arise during twisting. Practicing this pose slowly will help you develop habits that will allow you to practice it in a way that’s healthy for your body-mind, even in a fast flow.
How to Practice Parvrtta Parsvakonasana
- Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) on one end of a nonskid yoga mat.
- Place your hands on your hipbones.
- Step your right foot back 2-3 feet, keeping your feet hips-width apart from left to right. Do not try to line up your heels. This position is structurally unstable and will only make balancing much more difficult.
- Bend your left knee, moving into Warrior I, keeping your hands on your hips. You do not have to bend the knee to 90 degrees, but do make sure the knee is directly over your heel and not in front of it.
- Allow your right heel to lift off the floor.
- Rotate your torso toward your left leg, keeping your torso upright for now. Place your right hand on the outside of your left thigh.
- As you rotate allow your entire right leg, including the pelvis, to rotate toward the left leg.
- Lengthen your torso as you extend forward over the left leg.
- Place your right elbow on the outside of the left thigh and place your hands in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position).
- Even though your right heel is not on the floor, keep your right leg actively extending with the heel reaching down toward the floor.
- Take 5 to 10 deep breaths here. If your breathing feels restricted, lift your torso up a bit away from your left leg.
- To come out of the pose, lift your torso up, rotate back to the center, straighten your left knee and step the right foot forward—in this order.
- Stand in Tadasana and check in with what changes may have taken place in your body.
- Repeat on the other side.
Important Practice Pointers
- Even though photos of this pose often show a practitioner’s face turned upward, this can be very hard on your neck. Instead, look straight ahead. If you want to rotate your head upward, do so only for your last breath or two in the pose.
- If your balance is really shaky, try placing a Yoga Sandbag or folded Yoga Blanket under your back heel.
- If you have low back or sacroiliac stability issues, use a narrow stance.
- This pose is often shown with the armpit on the outside of the bent knee and the hand on the floor. In decades of practice and teaching, I’ve rarely met anyone who can do this without compromising the low back and hips. I prefer the variation I’ve introduced here, with the hands in Prayer Position.
- Do not practice this pose in the evening if you have insomnia.
- Do not practice twists in the first trimester of pregnancy.
- If you have sacroiliac joint issues, do not wedge your elbow into the outside of your thigh. Instead, practice through Step 7 above.