Extended Side Angle Pose

Extended Side Angle uses a wide stance, creating a long line from the back foot, up the side body, and through the top arm.

Written by:

Joanne Highland

Edited & fact checked by:

Jagpreet Kaur

Published Date:

Estimated reading time:

Extended Side Angle Pose

Key Takeaway

Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) is a dynamic asana that builds strength, enhances flexibility, and improves balance, making it a versatile and beneficial pose for yogis of all levels.

EXTENDED SIDE ANGLE POSE
Alternate name:Utthita Parsvakonasana
Difficulty level:Intermediate
Pose category:Standing poses
Muscle groups:Stretching: hip (psoas), inner thighs, intercostal muscles
Strengthening: quadriceps (legs), hamstrings (legs), knees (legs), ankles (legs), core (abdomen), back (quadratus lumborum)
Physical benefits:Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, knees, ankles, core, and back; improves balance and stamina.
Therapeutic applications:Improves posture, stimulates digestion.
Preparatory poses:Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
Counterposes that follow well:Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Child's Pose (Balasana)
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Chakras activated:Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
Most helpful prop:Manduka Yoga Cork Block - Yoga Prop and Accessory, Good for Travel, Comfortable Edges, Lightweight,...
Block under bottom hand - supports alignment, eases reach.

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I remember being a beginning yoga student stumbling through vinyasa classes, feeling I was always one step behind. Of course, yoga teachers typically give detailed cues to accommodate beginners in their classes, but it can be overwhelming once the pace picks up as you move through a sequence.

That’s why I’m a huge advocate of practicing yoga at home, so you can take your time to explore new poses, understand proper form, and become familiar with how each asana feels in your body.

Extended Side Angle Pose, or Utthita Parsvakonasana, is a posture that comes up quite often in various styles of yoga, so this is a crucial pose to know. Many yoga teachers like myself consider it a cornerstone in building engaging yoga sequences. This asana is a highlight of many Vinyasa flows — a dynamic step that integrates strength and flexibility, benefiting the entire body.

To help you feel more confident in your next yoga session, I’ll guide you through the nuances of this powerful asana, complete with cues for proper form, ways to modify and enhance the pose, and ideas for incorporating Extend Side Angle Pose into your home yoga routine.

Plus, I’ll throw in some must-know yogi facts about this potent posture’s background, anatomy, and benefits.

Join me for this deep dive into one of my favorite poses, Extended Side Angle! Grab your mat, and let’s get into it!

Watch our recommended steps for entering, holding, and exiting the pose.

Foundations of Utthita Parsvakonasana

Classified in the category of standing poses, Extended Side Angle is a modern asana that emerged in the 20th century. T. Krishnamacharya’s Yoga Makaranda (1934) introduced this pose with brief instructions. His student B.K.S. Iyengar offered more detailed step-by-step instructions in his 1966 text Light on Yoga.

In my teaching, I love to include this asana in dynamic flows paired with other strengthening yoga poses. But you can also practice Extended Side Angle independently, holding the pose to build strength and stamina.

The Sanskrit name itself unfolds a library of wisdom about the body’s potential movement in space:

  • Utthita: Lifted or extended
  • Parsva: Side
  • Kona: Angle
  • Asana: Pose

Put it all together, and the name offers a perfect visual description of this asana: your entire body is extended and open to one side, creating an angular shape. Now, let’s get into how to practice Extended Side Angle.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Utthita Parsvakonasana

A solid base is crucial for Extended Side Angle Pose. The stance will be familiar to you if you’ve done Warrior II or Triangle Pose before. Once you learn the right positioning of your feet, you’ll be ready to flow.

Utthita Parsvakonasana or Extended Side Angle, stretches the side body and strengthens the legs.

Setting Up

To get into Extended Side Angle Pose:

  1. Stand in the middle of your mat, facing the long edge. Step your feet wider than your hips.
  2. Pivot on your heel to turn your right foot 90 degrees so your toes point toward the front edge of your mat.
  3. Turn your left foot in the same direction about 45 degrees.

Create the Side Angle Shape

  1. Bend your front right leg, creating a 90-degree angle with your right knee.
  2. Keep your back left leg straight and ground down through the outer edge of the left foot.
  3. Bend from your waist over your front bent knee.

Upper Body Position

  1. Begin by bringing your right forearm to your right thigh.
  2. Extend your left arm up and forward with your bicep next to your ear.
  3. Stack your left shoulder over your right so your chest and torso remain open.
  4. Straighten your right elbow and reach your right arm down to the outside of your front foot. Press the fingertips of your right hand into the floor, or bring your palm flat.
  5. Keep your left ear facing the sky to align your head and neck with the spine.

In this position, you should feel one long line along the left side of your body, from the left foot through your fingertips.

Exiting Extended Side Angle

  1. Engage your core, especially the obliques, to return your torso upright.
  2. Straighten your right leg and turn the toes of both feet to face the other way.
  3. Repeat Utthita Parsvakonasana facing the other way, bending your left knee while keeping your right leg straight, and reaching your right arm up and over your head.

Move mindfully through each step, bringing awareness to which muscles are engaged and working versus lengthening and opening.

A simple modification for Extended Side Angle Pose: Rest your forearm on your front thigh.

Refine Your Alignment

Now that you know how to enter and exit Utthita Parsvakonasana, let’s take a more detailed look. Yoga teachers can use these cues to ensure students engage the right muscles and prevent injuries. If you are practicing yoga alone, use these tips to help build your body awareness.

Full-Body Focus

Extended Side Angle is a fantastic lower-body strength-builder, but that’s not the only thing going on with this pose. With your front leg supporting your weight and you feel your thigh muscles starting to burn, don’t forget about your chest and shoulders!

The magic of this pose is its balancing effect: by creating a sturdy base with your lower half, your torso is free to expand and open.

Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Here are some of the most common mistakes I see when teaching Utthita Parsvakonasana. Avoiding these misalignments will help you engage the right muscles to get the most out of the pose.

  • Front knee falling: People often let their bent knee drift inward. Keep it aligned with the second toe of your front foot.
  • Shoulders scrunching: Maintain space between your shoulders and ears, drawing your shoulder blades down and across your back.
  • Torso rolling forward: I’ve noticed a tendency to allow the top shoulder and hip to roll forward as the top arm reaches forward. Keep your hips stacked and your shoulders aligned vertically.
  • Core collapsing: Some students let their bottom arm bear all their weight in the palm on the floor or the forearm on top of the thigh. Use your arm for support and stability, but use your oblique muscles to lift your torso.
  • Back heel lifting: Collapsing the inner arch of the back foot by lifting the heel can strain the knee. Instead, press down through the outside edge of the back foot.

Breath Awareness for Increased Stamina

Maintaining steady breathing can help increase concentration and stamina during this intense stretch. I always find that focusing on my breath during a challenging asana allows me to hold poses longer.

Try it for yourself! When your thigh muscles start burning during Extended Side Angle, give your mind something else to think about by shifting your attention to your breath. You might be able to hold the pose 5, 10, or 20 seconds longer each time. This technique is a great way to build strength gradually.

Modifications for Extended Side Angle Pose

Extended Side Angle is an accessible pose you can adapt to your body's abilities.

Yoga is an adaptable, individualized practice. If you find the traditional version of this asana challenging, there are plenty of ways to modify the pose to make it work for you.

Using props in the Extended Side Angle Pose ensures correct form. This helps if reaching the floor is challenging for you or if you are working on building strength. These adjustments cater to diverse skill levels, strength, mobility, and body proportions and help prevent injury.

Block Support

Use a block to bring the ground closer to you if you cannot reach the floor comfortably.

  • Place a block underneath your bottom hand to the inside or outside of your front foot.
  • Adjust the block’s height to suit your comfort level and arm length.

This simple modification creates a more stable foundation, allowing you to concentrate more on your stance. I recommend this block from lululemon!

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lululemon’s Lift and Lengthen Yoga Block

Chair Modification for Extended Side Angle Pose

Using a chair for support in Utthita Parsvakonasana makes this pose more accessible if you lack leg strength or have difficulty balancing.

  • Position yourself in front of a chair with the seat under your front thigh. As you bend your front knee, bring your leg to rest on the chair’s seat.
  • Bring your forearm onto your thigh and reach your other arm towards the sky.

To gradually build strength, engage your hamstrings and thigh muscles and lift yourself off the chair, hovering a couple of inches above the seat. Hold for a few seconds, then release back down to the chair. Repeat 3 to 5 times on both legs. Over time, you’ll notice your muscles getting stronger.

Modifications for All

There are several ways to modify Extended Side Angle Pose. If you have shoulder issues, try resting your forearm on your thigh instead of reaching down with your hand. This reduces the compression in your shoulder joint.

Some yoga teachers cue this asana with the head turned towards the upper arm. If this feels uncomfortable for your neck, keep your gaze straight ahead. Personally, I prefer to keep my head aligned with my spine.

If you’re a beginner, try several of these suggestions to discover what feels the best in your body. That’s the beauty of yoga — you can almost always adjust the yoga poses to make them work for your abilities.

Extended Side Angle can be easily modified by bringing the forearm to the front thigh to support the upper body.

Extended Side Angle Pose for All Levels

Of course, modifications aren’t just for beginners. There are plenty of ways to alter yoga poses to challenge yourself.

Half-Bound Chest-Opener

Intermediate yogis can deepen their stretch in Extended Side Angle Pose with a half-bind to open the chest and shoulders.

  • Reach your top arm toward the sky. Bend your elbow and let your forearm drape behind your lower back.
  • Work on inching your fingers toward your lower hip.
  • Roll your top shoulder back and open your armpit toward the sky. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Shift your gaze up. Hold the stretch and breathe deeply. When you’re ready, release the bind and reach your arm up.

I love this version of the pose for the expansive feeling of opening the chest and sides of the rib cage. I always feel I can breathe deeper after this half-bound Side Angle variation.

Bound Extended Side Angle

Up for a serious challenge? Try taking a full bind in your Side Angle Pose.

  • Drape your upper arm across your lower back as you would in a half-bind.
  • Let your bottom shoulder drop lower in front of your bent knee.
  • Internally rotate your bottom arm, bending your elbow to reach under your front leg.
  • Clasp the fingers of both hands together. Work to roll your top shoulder back so your chest stays open.

This version requires considerable strength in your core, inner thighs, quadriceps, and hamstrings. But if you engage all the proper muscles, you should have no problem keeping yourself balanced while holding the bind.

Preparatory Poses for Utthita Parsvakonasana

Before attempting the Extended Side Angle Pose, it’s crucial to warm up. Proper preparation can significantly enhance your flexibility and reduce the chance of muscle strain.

Warm-Up Poses

Start with poses that prepare your muscles for Utthita Parsvakonasana. A few effective warm-up poses include:

Each pose targets critical areas used in the Extended Side Angle Pose. These yoga postures stretch and strengthen your legs, arms, and core.

Goddess Pose is a great preparatory pose for Extended Side Angle. It activates your leg muscles and establishes stability.

Enhancing Mobility

The preparatory poses are not random; they’re chosen to improve flexibility where you need it most for the posture. For example, Goddess opens up the hips, stretches the inner thighs, and activates the quadriceps. This makes achieving a deeper bend in Utthita Parsvakonasana easier.

Try holding each preparatory pose for at least five breaths, allowing your muscles to release tension gradually.

Mindful Transitions

Moving mindfully between asanas is as important as the poses themselves. That’s another insight behind these carefully chosen preparatory poses. You can flow smoothly between Wide-Legged Forward Fold, Goddess, and Warrior II.

Your legs will feel solid and ready to support you in holding your Extended Side Angle Pose. Maintaining stability is something I emphasize when teaching yoga because it reinforces a solid foundation for any sequence of movements.

Anatomy and Health Benefits of Utthita Parsvakonasana

Impacted Muscle Groups

Extended Side Angle Pose targets several muscle groups. Here’s an overview of everything being lengthened and strengthened in this asana:

  • Stretching: hip (psoas), inner thighs, intercostal muscles
  • Strengthening: quadriceps, hamstrings, knees, ankles, core, and back (quadratus lumborum)
  • Different versions may also strengthen the bottom arm and shoulder or open the chest.

In my experience, learning more about the anatomy of yoga postures helped me feel more connected to my practice. Knowing the mechanics of an asana encourages focused attention on muscle engagement and precise positioning, increasing body awareness and proprioception. I recommend this book.

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Yoga Mat Companion 1: Anatomy for Vinyasa Flow and Standing Poses

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Additional Health Benefits

This pose offers numerous other health benefits besides toning and stretching various muscle groups.

  • Builds balance, especially when taking the gaze up toward the fingertips
  • Improves posture by strengthening the back muscles, mobilizing the spine, and opening the chest
  • Stimulates digestion due to the gentle compression around the abdominal organs as you lean over your front leg
  • Boosts energy and circulation; as a dynamic posture, you’ll get your blood flowing and improve respiration
  • Calms and focuses the mind, thanks to the deep breathing required in this asana

Strength, Stamina, and Self-Confidence

Consistent practice of extended side angle builds strength and stamina. Over time, holding this pose longer becomes more manageable as your muscles adapt. You may even notice your endurance improves during other physical activities.

Of course, developing strength and stamina requires a high level of discipline and self-determination. But the payoff is worth it, as you’ll build confidence in yourself and your abilities along the way.

The mental fortitude you cultivate in intense asanas like Extended Side Angle Pose can boost your mental and emotional well-being.

Extended Side Angle brings many benefits like building strength and stamina, increasing circulation, and boosting energy.

Enhancing Your Practice with Variations and Sequencing

Utthita Parsvakonasana becomes more dynamic when used in sequences. As a standing pose, numerous yoga poses pair perfectly with Utthita Parsvakonasana.

Sequencing Ideas

A well-planned sequence can smoothly integrate Utthita Parsvakonasana into your vinyasa flow. Here are a couple of my go-to sequences utilizing this pose. These mini-flows enhance stability and flexibility while emphasizing breath awareness.

  • Begin in Warrior II. Exhale to Extended Side Angle. Return to Warrior II on your next inhale. Exhale into Reverse Warrior. Repeat this sequence, flowing with your breath.
  • Begin in Utthita Parsvakonasana. As you exhale, move into Triangle Pose by straightening your front knee. Inhale and return to Extended Side Angle. Flow between these two positions, moving with your breath.

Exploring Deeper Versions of the Pose

Adding variations of Utthita Parsvakonasana to your sequences opens up new possibilities for creative transitions.

  • From the bound variation of Utthita Parsvakonasana, you can enter Bird of Paradise, a challenging standing asana balancing on one leg with the other gracefully extended.
  • In the full expression of Utthita Parsvakonasana, with the palm of your bottom hand pressing into the floor, transition to Side Plank by stepping your front foot back.

I love spicing up my classes with creative yoga sequences and challenging transitions like these. Diversifying your yoga routine with new movements doesn’t only progress your physical practice — it’s a workout for your brain, too!

Conclusion

Some yoga poses serve a particular purpose, targeting one specific muscle group. Others, like Extended Side Angle Pose, check many boxes. Want to build strength? Stretch? Release tension? This pose can do it all!

Variations of Utthita Parsvakonasana work various muscle groups for an all-around fitness experience. Even simply altering arm positions can shift the workout from legs to arms to core, making this an incredibly versatile yoga pose. Throw in some props and modifications, and this asana becomes accessible to yogis of all levels.

Take your time to become familiar with the fundamentals of this pose, as it is a cornerstone in many yoga sequences. Once you’re comfortable in the asana, let the creativity flow along with your movements, and try pairing Utthita Parsvakonasana with related yoga poses.

I encourage you to integrate this powerful asana into your routine, embracing its variations to keep your practice dynamic and engaging. Reflect on the balance between effort and ease as you do so.

Add Extended Side Angle Pose into your home yoga practice by following the alignment cues detailed here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Utthita Parsvakonasana?

Utthita Parsvakonasana, also known as Extended Side Angle Pose, is a standing yoga pose that emphasizes stretching the sides of the body and strengthening the legs.

Who can benefit from practicing Utthita Parsvakonasana?

Individuals looking to enhance flexibility, strength, and balance can benefit from practicing Utthita Parsvakonasana. It is particularly beneficial for athletes, dancers, and those who engage in sports that require strong legs and a stable core.

Is Extended Side Angle Pose suitable for beginners?

Yes, Extended Side Angle Pose is suitable for beginners, but it should be approached with care. Beginners can use modifications such as placing the lower hand on a block instead of reaching for the floor. Beginners need to focus on proper alignment rather than achieving depth.

Who should avoid practicing Utthita Parsvakonasana?

Individuals with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or injuries to the hips, knees, back, or shoulder should consult a healthcare provider before attempting Utthita Parsvakonasana.

What are the common mistakes to avoid in Utthita Parsvakonasana?

Common mistakes include compromising the alignment by bending the torso towards the floor or letting the front knee collapse inward. Additionally, placing too much weight on the hand resting on the ground or a block may compress the shoulder joint.

How often should I practice this asana?

The frequency of practice can vary depending on individual fitness levels and personal goals, but incorporating this pose into your routine several times a week can help you improve flexibility and strength.