How to Do Side Lunge (Skandasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Hip opener, hamstring stretch

Level: Beginner

When you're looking for a great hip-opening pose, turn to the Side Lunge (Skandasana). This is a common yoga pose that stretches your hips and hamstrings and helps build your core strength. It's a relatively simple lunge, making it perfect for beginners and regular practice. This version of Skandasana was popularized by Shiva Rea in her trance-dance flow sequences. It is sometimes used as a transitional pose. Advanced students will also enjoy some challenging variations.


This pose improves your balance and core strength. It stretches the hamstrings and hips, which can be tight from sitting too much or from sports such as running. The group of muscles called the hip flexors get tight when you spend a lot of time sitting in chairs. Stretching them can help relieve and prevent back pain and sciatica.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin in Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana).
  2. Bend your left knee into a half-squat. Keep your right leg straight and flex your foot so that your toes leave the floor so you are rooting into the right heel.
  3. Press hips back while keeping the spine lifted. Root into your feet so that your body is lifted, instead of sinking.
  4. There are a lot of options for arm variations. Keep your hands on the floor if you need them for balance (on a block if that is helpful). Otherwise, try bending your elbows and bring your hands into anjali mudra ​(palms together) with the left elbow inside the left knee in a kind of half Garland Pose (Malasana). Or, extend arms out wide.
  5. Drop your hands to the floor for support and shift to the other side.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most out of this pose and avoid strain or injury.


You want to hinge forward at the hip joints, keeping them square and aligned with the ankles rather than twisting. Likewise, avoid twisting the knees.

Slumped Torso

Keep your abs engaged and spine straight.

Modifications and Variations

As with most poses, you can do this pose in different ways to meet your skill level.

Need a Modification?

If you can't comfortably get into a full squat, stay up on the ball of your left foot. You can also try placing a rolled-up blanket under your heel for support. Practicing Garland Pose (Malasana) will help you get used to squatting. If you find that you keep losing balance, place blocks under your seat.

Up for a Challenge?

There are a lot of ways to incorporate this pose into a flow that will work your core strength. For instance, try stepping back and forth to Skandasana from Mountain Pose at the front of your mat without using your hands on the floor.

Once you can comfortably lift your hands from the floor as described above, you can start working towards a bind with the arms.

  1. Wrap your left arm in front of your left shin and bend your elbow to bring your left hand behind your back.
  2. Reach your right hand back to bind with the left one.
  3. Turn your chest to the right and open your heart toward the ceiling.

Skandasana here is a deep side lunge. It is not the only yoga pose that goes by that name, however. In "Light on Yoga," B.K.S. Iyengar demonstrates a very different pose that is also called Skandasana. This is a seated forward bend with one foot hooked behind your head.

A standing version of this same pose (forward bend with the foot behind the head) is included in Ashtanga yoga's challenging third series. In this, it was apparently also called Skandasana by Pattabhi Jois. Those two poses have enough in common to be considered variations from a common origin. However, the Side Lunge version is pretty different. It's probable that it just happens to have been named for the same Hindu war god, Skanda

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have an injury to your hip, knee, or ankle. Discuss your plans with your doctor or physical therapist to find out what is appropriate. If you feel any sharp pain in this pose, gently come out of the pose.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.