Utthita Parsvakonasana, or Extended Side Angle Pose is a prism of geometric shapes. Like a dynamic ramp, there is one crisp line from the base of the foot all the way to the finger tips. There is also a 90 degree angle in the leg that is difficult to properly attain without discipline from the practitioner. It is the pose I chose for my cover photo while I was visiting the battlefield of Gettysburg shortly after my Iyengar assessment in Pennsylvania.
I will present the classic asana the way I learned from my teachers.
First start in Tadasana.
Jump the feet 4 to 4.5 feet apart (1.25 Meters) like in Utthita Trikonasana (see previous post). This is called Utthita Hasta Padasana. Notice I am using straps to illustrate how the wrists are above the feet when the distance is correct.
Rotate the left foot to the right and the entire right leg to the right side (see previous post). This is Parsva Hasta Padasana.
From here, keep the left leg firm as you bend the right knee. The knee should come over the ankle to form 90 degree angle. As a teacher, I look to see if the student’s femur bone is parallel to the ground.
This is a common mistake I see which can be dangerous for the knee. When you bend the knee past the ankle, it puts too much load on the joint.
To correct this, you need a longer stance. Get into the habit of moving the back leg to adjust as it is not bearing as much weight as the bent leg.
Here is another mistake, not bending the knee enough.
This may be because your stance is too long, or you are not bending enough. Remember, the femur bone should be parallel to the ground. If this much knee flexion causes you pain, use a chair using the natural 90 angle to adjust your pose and support weight.
To enter the pose from here, keep the back leg firm while extending your right arm up to lift the chest.
Like in Utthita Trikonasana in the last post, extend your arm to the side wall instead of the floor to get LENGTH from the tailbone to the tips of the fingers. When you are fully elongated take the hand down to the brick or the floor on the OUTSIDE of the ankle.
The most important part of the pose here is the thing you cannot see…the outer edge of your left foot. PRESS IT DOWN.
From the outer edge of your left foot reach to the tips of the fingers to elongate the spine. Rotate the torso toward the ceiling. Look up and underneath the arm which should behind the head.
To come out of the pose. Keep the back leg firm as you swing the top arm up at the same time as straightening the right leg. Rotate the toes facing forward and jump the feet back together coming back to Tadasana. Repeat other side.
It is easy to learn Satya (truthfulness) in this posture. As geometry is based on “proofs,” you can easily see if your leg is 90 degrees which is the “true” posture.
When you realize how much work it is to achieve this, you may think twice about this being another “basic posture” and realize how truly deep Utthita Parsvakonasana can be. There is a legendary class I read about where Iyengar held his students for 5 plus minutes per side in this pose. I wouldn’t recommend that if you are a beginner as you will clearly find that 30 seconds seems like an eternity when doing this pose correctly.