Parshvottanasana (पार्श्वोत्तानासन) (standing side stretch) is a beginning to intermediate level pose which is great for the health of the legs as well as the spine. It provides an excellent stretch for the entire back side of the legs, hamstrings in particular.
- Come to a standing position close to the top of the mat with the feet hip distance apart. Stretch your left leg back so the feet are about 3.5′ to 4′ apart. Keep the right foot facing the front with the side of the foot parallel to the side edge of the mat. Keep the left foot turned about 60 degrees toward to the front foot. Try to keep both the legs straight.
- Place the hands on the waist and turn the hips and shoulders so they are parallel to the top edge of the mat. Keep the back heel firmly pressed into the mat.
- Place the hands on the right thigh and start sliding them down the leg. Make the effort to keep the right leg as straight as possible. Try to bend the torso at the waist area. Press the thighs backward so the torso stays elongated and pushed forward.
- Maintain the intention to keep the right leg straight. However, if the hamstrings begin to complain, you may like to bend the right knee slightly so as to avoid overstretching the back side of the leg.
- As you slide the hands down, if they don’t reach the floor on either side of the right foot, you may keep the hands on the shins or ankles or just as far down as they reach. Alternately, if you have them handy, you may like to place a pair of blocks on either side of the foot and place the hands on the blocks for support.
- If you feel comfortable in the final posture, you may attempt to drop the chest further in an effort to bring it closer to the right thigh.
- Try to stay in the final pose for about 25 seconds
- To come out of the pose, slowly begin to lift the spine up from the waist, sliding the hands up the leg. When you are fully vertical, relax for a few breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Strengthens and stretches back side of the legs, especially the hamstrings
- Great stretch for the entire back
- Strengthens and tones abdomen; improves digestion
- Massages internal organs like the liver and stomach
- Has very calming effect on the brain
- Improves posture and a sense of balance
- If you suffer from high blood pressure, abdominal illness or have any back injury, avoid going down all the way. Instead, go half way and keep the torso parallel to the floor
- If you have problem with balance, you may like to face the wall, adjust your distance from the wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height
- Variation: clasp hands behind the back and extend the arms away from you as you bend forward