Friday, December 5, 2008

Focus Pose - Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

It’s the beginning of the month and almost the end of the year (can you believe it?!?) so I figured this is a great time to talk about the next focus pose: Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose).

I used to dread this pose when I first learned it. I felt crunched and over stretched all at the same time - and then add in the one side was more open than the other. Uff. It was just darn uncomfortable. But with practice (and years) I’ve come to really like this pose: a combination of a deep stretch through the hips and a nice long stretch through the ribs.

One item of note - I like to come into a Virabhadrasana B (warrior II) posture first to allow students to establish the wider stance.

From Tadasana, on an INHALE, step or jump open to the right, bringing the feet about 4 feet apart.

EXHALE: to Warrior II

INHALE: expand through the arms and shoulders, lengthen the spine

EXHALE: reach or stretch for the horizon, look at where you are going, and move from the hips and waist. Either
a) bring elbow to knee, and left arm overhead
b) extend hand to floor, and left arm overhead.

Strongly anchor down the back foot, feeling the floor between the pinky toe and the heel.

Front knee is moving toward 90* or knee is behind ankle. If knee is in front of ankle, widen your stance. Keep the knee inline with the foot.

Sink down through the hips. The tendency in this pose is to keep the tush in the air.

Press the cheek upward into the triceps. Gaze can be straight ahead, up toward the ceiling or up toward the palm. This will depend upon the flexibility in YOUR neck and shoulders.

I like to cue extending the arm toward where the wall meets the ceiling - not straight up like Trikonasana, but not straight ahead either.

HOLD for 5 breaths. If you mentally work through the “checklist” above, that should be about 5 breaths.

EXHALE: to Warrior II

INHALE: straighten the right knee, rotate around, and EXHALE into the opposite side.

Repeat as above, returning to Tadasana at the front of the mat on an exhale.

Not so bad, no?

Like Utthita Trikonasana, the focus of this pose in on just about everything: legs, ankles, hips, rib cage, lungs, shoulders, spine and abdominals. Benefits include strengthening the thighs and calves, knees and ankles while stretching hips, shoulders, ribcage and spine. Don’t we know it!

I strongly suggest that one take their time when moving into this pose - I like to cue students to EXHALE into level 1 - elbow to knee, find their foundation, and THEN move into the next level if it is appropriate. To often people are in a rush to "get into the pose" and they don't allow themselves a moment to find the foundation, find their breath and subsequently injure themselves.

Next focus pose: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved extended side angle)

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