Intense Side Stretch Pose/Pyramid Pose
We just finished our four wide-stance forward folds (or straddles as Stella from Austrailia called them!) with the hands on the floor variation, hands at the waist, hands behind the back for a shoulder stretch, and fingers to toes. We've come back to Samasthti at the front of our mats an are now ready to move into the next posture:
Pyramid pose or "Parsvottanasana"
Like Utthita Trikonasana, this asana is stretching quite a few things all at once: hamstrings, shoulders, wrists if in reverse namaste, ankles, back and hips. And as with Trikonasana, awareness should be maintained in the front knee to avoid hyper extending or a slight bend added if you have tight hamstrings.
Let's move into the pose in the ashtanga tradition:
From Samasthti, on an INHALE walk or jump three feet to the right (the feet are about three feet apart). This is our shortest stance of the standing poses.
NOTE: there is some variation in traditions here - in the Traditional Practice the practitioner would immediately exhale into the forward fold, hands behind the back. We are following a Contemporary Practice with the following breakdown.
Right foot points to the back of the room, left foot is pointing toward the corner of the back wall. This allows the hips to turn equally toward the back of the room. Check your heels - if you were to place a ruler on the floor between the front heel and the back heel, the ruler should be either right in line or separating the two (ie. one heel on each side of the ruler). This is to further allow the hips to move directly toward the back of the room.
Bring the hands to the waist (Level I)
Grasping forearms behind the back (Level II):
or reverse namaste (Level III). If in Level III, try and press the palms fully together by lifting up on the shoulders:
INHALE, look up the wall or toward the ceiling (a little back bend if that is comfortable). This motion helps to open across the front of the shoulders.
EXHALE, forward fold.
Level I will stay torso parallel to the ground, hands at the waist
Level II will move to about 45 degrees.
Level III will bring forehead to shin.
ALL LEVELS try to keep the shoulders opening and shoulder blades moving toward the waist. The tendency here is to collapse through the shoulders and hunch them toward the ears.
ALL LEVELS, press equally through the front foot and the back foot. For some people, this becomes a balance pose. Anchor down through the ball of the front foot as well as through the outside of the back foot (between pinky and heel).
ALL LEVELS, we are attempting to keep those hips parallel to the ground. The tendency is to pop one hip up and drop the other. Counter this by bringing the hip of the front leg forward and the hip of the back leg, back. Or ask your instructor for assistance.
HOLD FOR 5 BREATHS
INHALE, lift yourself up. Add a little backbend if that is comfortable.
EXHALE, pivot yourself around. Left foot is now facing front, Right foot is facing the corner of the room. Check your stance! Often the heels will cross with the switch.
INHALE, little backbend. Even if you don't do the back bend, try and be expansive through the front of the chest.
EXHALE, forward fold as before.
HOLD FOR 5 BREATHS
INHALE, lift yourself up again.
EXHALE, turn to face the side of the room
INHALE, release the arms, expand outward
EXHALE to Samasthti at the front of your mat.
An aside - I have found this site to be a good resource for looking at poses from different angles. Yoga Basics