Extended Side Angle Yoga Pose Variations

Intermediate sequence helps achieve balance and release

Side-bending poses are not given as much attention as back bends or forward bends, and that's to our detriment. Side bends can open us spaces we often neglect and allow us to stretch muscles, like the quadratus lumborum, that will leave us feeling more balanced and released.

When doing side-bending poses, always breath through the hips, ribs, neck, and the entire length of the spine. Keep your chest open and your back, hips, and shoulders aligned. Resist bending forward and falling out of alignment by visualizing yourself between two planes of glass. If you have trouble keeping alignment or balance, practice the poses against the wall and use that as your guide.

Here is an extended side angle sequence well suited for intermediate practitioners and above:

1
Extended Side Angle Pose

Utthita Parsvakonasana
Utthita Parsvakonasana. Barry Stone

Start the sequence in extended side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana). Anchor the pose with your legs strong. They will stay in the same position as you move through the variations with your arms. Remember to keep your front knee bent over the ankle.

Practicing Utthita Parsvakonasana teaches you how to stabilize your legs by opening and expanding the sides of your ribs. It helps tone the muscles that run along the side of your body from the outer heel through the hip and torso right up to the rib cage.

2
Extended Side Angle Pose Variation II

Extended Side Angle II Utthita Parsvakonasana II
Utthita Parsvakonasana II. Barry Stone

Moving from extended side angle pose, bring your left arm over your left ear with the palm facing the floor. It is acceptable to have the front arm on either the outside or inside of the front leg. You can also bring your front elbow up to your thigh if this offers you greater opening in the chest. Be sure keep the unbent leg straight with the knee solid but not locked.

3
Bound Extended Side Angle Pose

Bound Extended Side Angle Pose - Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana
Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana. Barry Stone

From variation II, move into bound extended side angle pose (Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana) by rotating your left arm around and behind your back.

Now, keeping your legs solid and stable, bring your right hand off the floor. Bring the right arm underneath your right thigh and the right hand behind your back to meet the left. Hold the left wrist with the right hand, straightening the left arm behind your back.

Open the chest towards the ceiling and keep your gaze upward.

4
Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise Svarga Dvijasana
Svarga Dvijasana. Barry Stone

If you are comfortable in Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana, you can move directly into bird of paradise pose (Svarga Dvijasana).

Keeping your hands bound behind your back, step the back foot forward so that is next to the front foot. If you choose, you can stay here in a forward fold.

If you decide to continue the pose, come up to the tiptoes on the foot of your bound leg. Slowly stand, raising your leg as you do. Begin to straighten your bound leg as fully as you feel comfortable without losing stability or alignment. Come out by reversing the steps.

Svarga Dvijanasana is a challenging pose but one that opens the hips, strengthens the back and core, and lengthens the hamstrings.

5
Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana. Barry Stone

To complete the first half of the sequence, move to downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) for a few breaths before repeating the second half of the sequence, this time with the left foot forward.