Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana) is a dynamic asana that enhances balance, strengthens the legs, and stretches the hamstrings and hips, promoting flexibility and improved posture.
Gluteal muscles (hips)
Hip flexors (hips)
Erector spinae (back)
Shoulders (upper body)
Chest (upper body)
|Increases flexibility in hamstrings and hips; enhances balance and leg strength.
|Hamstring flexibility, improves posture.
|Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
|Counterposes that follow well:
|Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Standing Splits (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana)
High Lunge (Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
|Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura Chakra)
|Most helpful prop:
Yoga blocks: Under hands for support, reduces hamstring strain.
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When I think of yoga, I think about balance. Not necessarily standing on one leg, in Tree or Dancer Pose, but the idea of holistically balancing effort and ease, stability and suppleness, strength and flexibility.
As a yoga instructor, one of the yoga poses I believe best demonstrates these intertwining, complementary qualities is Pyramid Pose or Parsvottanasana. This asana brings an intense stretch to the lower body—especially the hamstrings—making it a perfect addition to your yoga sequences if becoming more flexible is one of your goals.
As its translated name, “intense side stretch,” suggests, Pyramid Pose can certainly feel intense. That translates to an opportunity for practicing breath awareness, stillness of mind, and perseverance—yet another reason why this asana is one of my favorites to teach and practice.
Join me for a complete pose breakdown as we examine Parsvottanasana. By the end of this article, I hope you’ll love this asana as much as I do!
Watch our recommended steps for entering, holding, and exiting the pose.
- 1 A Brief Background
- 2 Parsvottanasana Step-by-Step Guide
- 3 Parsvottanasana Modifications and Variations
- 4 Intense Side Stretch Pose Benefits
- 5 Parsvottanasana in Yoga Sequences
- 6 Reflections on Mastering Pyramid Pose
A Brief Background
When learning a new yoga pose, I always find knowing a bit about the asana and how to execute it helpful. Knowing the Sanskrit name, or how the asana is commonly used, can help you remember the pose’s shape and give you ideas for integrating it into your practice.
So, here’s Parsvottanasana at a glance.
- Its Sanskrit name comes from parsva (side), uttan (stretched out or intense stretch), and asana (seat or pose). Its classification in the vast library of yoga poses is a forward bend.
- T. Krishnamacharya featured Parsvottanasana in his 1934 text, Yoga Makaranda, one of the first guidebooks on practicing Hatha yoga.
- Many yoga teachers incorporate this asana into Vinyasa flows with other powerful poses like Warrior or High Lunge.
- Parsvottanasana is a key pose in my favorite sequence, the Moon Salutation (Chandra Namaskar).
- Take caution when using the Sanskrit name, as it is similar to Parsvakonasana, Extended Side Angle.
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Now that you’re familiar with the asana, let’s learn how to nail this challenging yet rewarding stretch!
Parsvottanasana Step-by-Step Guide
At first glance, this asana might remind you of Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose. However, you’ll notice a few critical differences in setting up the pose’s stance and overall alignment when taking a closer look and following these cues.
As part of many yoga sequences, there are various ways to enter Parsvottanasana. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll take a beginner’s approach here and begin from a standing position.
- Begin standing at the top of your yoga mat, with your feet separated at a hip-width distance, as if standing on train tracks.
- Bring your hands to your hips and step your right foot back, about half the length of your mat.
- Angle the toes of your back foot slightly outwards, about 30 to 45 degrees. Keep the toes of your front left foot facing forward.
- Ground down through the outer edges of both feet, lifting the inner arches.
- Your hips should both face forward, squared off.
Progress into the Stretch
Once you’ve created stability in your foundation, you’re ready to add the forward bend element of Parsvottanasana. Keep following these cues:
- As you inhale, reach your arms overhead and grow taller through the crown of your head to lengthen your spine. Engage your abdominal muscles by pressing your navel in towards your spine.
- With your exhale, hinge forward from your hips. Keep your chest open and maintain your long spine.
- As you fold over your left leg, keep your arms reaching forward, your ears between your biceps, and the sides of your torso long. Hug your thighs inward, towards your center, to engage your leg muscles.
- You may stay here in this lifted variation of Parsvottanasana. Or, continue with the following steps if you want a deeper stretch.
- With your exhale, continue folding forward over your left leg. Bring your hands or fingertips to the floor, framing your front leg.
- Release your head, aiming to bring your chest toward your knee.
- Hold the stretch for several deep breaths.
When you are ready to exit Parsvottanasana, follow these cues mindfully.
- Bring your hands to your hips.
- Keep squeezing your thighs towards your center and ensure your core is engaged.
- Press into both feet and rise, returning your torso upright.
- Step your right foot forward, returning to stand at the top of your mat.
Repeat all the above cues on your second side, stepping your left foot behind.
Using Your Breath
Especially in intense stretches like Parsvottanasana, using your breath with intention is crucial. It can help you move at a mindful pace, maintain focus, and stretch deeper.
- Inhale deeply as you find length in the spine and sides of the torso.
- Exhale slowly as you hinge at the hips toward a forward bend.
- With each inhale, think of creating more space in your body.
- Each exhale allows you to explore that new space gently but firmly.
Alignment Cues for Yoga Teachers
To ensure safe execution and to get the most out of this asana, remember these helpful tips:
- Keep a micro-bend in your front knee to avoid hyperextending or locking it out.
- When you fold forward, visualize bringing your chest closer to your knee (rather than face to shin). That will help to avoid rounding the spine.
- Ground down through the outer edge of each foot to maintain even weight distribution.
Practicing Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) regularly will lengthen and strengthen your leg muscles and spine while toning your core. Whether you try this asana as part of a sequence or on its own, its qualities will help you progress in your yoga practice.
Parsvottanasana Modifications and Variations
Intense Side Stretch Pose can be tweaked to fit everyone’s needs. Props and variations allow you to tailor this asana to your preference and level. Here are some ideas to try.
Everyone has to start somewhere, right? So, if you have super tight hamstrings or need extra support, bring in some props to take the edge off.
- Yoga blocks: adjust their height depending on how far your hands are from the floor when you fold over your leg.
- Wall support: to help support your balance and stability, set up with your front leg a foot or two away from a wall. As you lean over your front leg, bring your arms forward and press your palms into the wall for support.
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“Namaste” Prayer Variation
To level up your Parsvottanasana, try changing up the position of your arms.
- Before you forward bend, reach your arms behind your back and bring your palms together in a reverse Anjali mudra (“namaste” position).
- Press your elbows open and back, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and open your chest.
The reverse prayer or “namaste” position of your arms turns this stretch into an opener for your chest and shoulders and ups the balance challenge!
No matter your level of yoga, from beginner to seasoned yogi, you can find a version of Parsvottanasana that works for you.
Intense Side Stretch Pose Benefits
Parsvottanasana, or Intense Side Stretch, is a powerhouse for enhancing balance and building leg strength. It also opens up your hamstrings and hips, improving flexibility and posture.
Parsvottanasana demands focus. As you align your body into the shape of a pyramid, every muscle must coordinate. This balancing act sharpens your concentration while training your mind to stay centered.
- Improves mental stability
- Promotes focused attention
- Increases endurance and mindfulness through breath awareness
Strengthens Legs, Back, and Core
Standing firm in Parsvottanasana works wonders on your legs. The muscles in your thighs and calves get a solid workout as you hold the stretch, while your back and core muscles engage as you enter and exit the position.
- Builds lower body strength
- Supports back health
Stretches the Hamstrings and Hips
As a forward bend, Parsvottanasana targets those tight spots in the hamstrings and hips that can cause discomfort or limit movement. Keep practicing regularly; with time, you’ll feel a satisfying release as these areas gradually loosen up.
- Lengthens hamstring muscles
- Enhances range of motion in the hips
- Improves overall mobility
Incorporating the Intense Side Stretch Pose into your routine can benefit both body and mind. It can be challenging; remember to keep breathing as you progress into the pose.
Parsvottanasana in Yoga Sequences
Preparatory Poses Warm-Up
Parsvottanasana challenges your balance and stretches your legs. To get ready, be sure you are adequately warmed up.
I recommend starting with poses that open up the backs of your legs, like Standing Forward Bend and Downward Facing Dog. Then, move on to a few rounds of Sun Salutations, which will heat your whole body and help you prepare for Intense Side Stretch.
Complementary Follow-Up Poses
After Parsvottanasana, keep the flow going. The following yoga poses are some of my favorites that connect seamlessly with Parsvottanasana.
- Triangle Pose: step your foot back to create a wider stance. Open to the side, stacking your hips and reaching one arm to the sky.
- Standing Splits: keep your hands or fingertips on the floor and shift your weight into your front leg, taking your other leg up toward the sky.
- High Lunge: keep your hands on the floor and bend into your front knees.
Tips for Yoga Teachers
Intense Side Stretch fits into many yoga classes. Here are a couple of ways to weave it into different styles.
- In Vinyasa, slip it between standing sequences for a dynamic transition.
- For Hatha classes, hold longer for deep stretches. Use props like blocks under the hands for support and relaxation.
When you’re planning your yoga sequences, remember these tips:
- Start slow with preparatory poses.
- Choose complementary poses that feel natural after Intense Side Stretch.
- Adjust the pose to fit the style of your class.
With practice, Parsvottanasana can become a cornerstone in your yoga sequences. It’s all about finding balance – in practice and in each sequence.
Reflections on Mastering Pyramid Pose
Mastering the Pyramid Pose, or Parsvottanasana, embodies the harmony you find in a yoga practice. Your stance in the pose forms a solid base, allowing you to create space and length in your legs, spine, shoulders, and chest.
When you practice Parsvottanasana, you also learn to cultivate a balance between physical and mental effort while at the same time allowing yourself to release into the pose as your breath flows with ease.
Remember that yoga is a process, not a perfection! It’s about embracing the discipline and patience required in yoga practice. Embrace the challenge of Pyramid Pose; let it be a testament to your dedication to personal growth through yoga.
We’re here to support you on your journey: if you need a refresher on any yoga poses mentioned in this article, check out our entire library of yoga pose tutorials!
FAQ 1: Is Intense Side Stretch Pose suitable for beginners?
Sure! However, beginners should make adjustments or use props to maintain proper alignment. Try keeping the front knee slightly bent or using blocks underneath the hands.
FAQ 2: Can practicing Parsvottanasana help improve my posture?
Yes, this asana can support better posture by strengthening the back muscles and stretching tight hamstrings, which are often correlated with postural issues.
FAQ 3: Do I need any special equipment to practice Parsvottasana?
You may want a high-quality, non-slip yoga mat for stability and comfort in Parsvottanasana. Blocks can also be a big help if you’re working on your flexibility.
FAQ 4: How often should I incorporate Pyramid Pose into my yoga routine?
Incorporating Parsvottanasana 2-3 times per week into your routine allows you to experience its benefits while giving your body time to rest between practices.
FAQ 5: What common mistakes should I avoid when doing Pyramid Pose?
Common mistakes include rounding the back, straining the neck, or locking out the knees. Focus on keeping a flat back, elongated neck and spine, and knees slightly bent if needed.
FAQ 6: Are there any contraindications for Pyramid Pose?
Individuals with severe hamstring injuries or lower back issues should approach this pose cautiously or avoid it altogether. If you are unsure about a new pose, always seek advice from a healthcare provider or certified yoga instructor.