Parsvottanasana - Lateral intense extension pose parsva - lateral or side (When parsva receives a suffix, the “a” is dropped.) uttana - intense extension (When uttanasana receives a prefix, the “u” becomes an “o”.) asana - pose
1. From tadasana, separate the feet 2-3 ft. apart so that the heels are beneath the forearms when the arms are laterally extended. 2. Join the palms behind the back. 3. From the hip, turn the left leg out 90 degrees and turn the right foot inward enough to square the hips to the left leg. 4. Inhale and lengthen the torso. Keep the length of the inner body, as you exhale and fold forward over the left leg.
From tadasana, bend the knees and step or lightly jump the legs apart, so that the heels are below the forearms. This is a slightly narrower stance than the externally rotated standing asanas, where the feet are below the wrists. With the feet still parallel, join the palms behind the back and bring them as high as possible up the back. This hand position will tend to make the scapula stick out, so bring the shoulders toward the back body to flatten the scapula and open the chest. If joining the hands is not possible, simply clasp the elbows with the hands behind the back.
From the left hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees. Turn the right foot inward enough to square the pelvis to the left leg. This will create a deep angle on the back foot. The centerline of the asana will run along the inner edge of the left foot and extend to the back edge of the right heel. This is the same centerline as in virabhadrasana I, but different than an externally rotated standing asana such as trikonasana.
Work the right femur deeply in internal rotation to help square the hips and deepen the groins. This action will tend to compromise the arch of the right foot, so resist the lower right leg in external rotation to sustain the arch. Together, these actions should help draw the right leg back, minimizing the weight on the left leg and deepening the groins.
Keep the weight on the ball mount and inner heel of the left foot, and work the left quadricep as though it was in external rotation. The left femur is still internally rotated in the socket, and only the quadriceps will work in external rotation. This should bring the joints of the left leg into parallel alignment. Keep the muscles of both legs hugging the bones throughout.
With the foundation of the pose established, inhale and lift the inner walls of the ribs away from the pelvis. This will lengthen the groins and the entire inner body. Sustain the length of the inner body as you exhale and fold forward over the left leg. Release the sacrum into the pelvis. It will feel as though you are unrolling the belly down onto the thigh. If the ribs begin to put weight on the diaphragm, back off and re-lengthen the inner body. This will be as far as you need to take the asana. Let the inhalations lengthen the inner body, as the exhalations soften the back muscles. If the legs are able to sustain their work, the belly will be able to soften while sustaining its length.
For tight bodies or those new to the asana, it is educational to first practice parsvottanasana with a completely neutral spine. As the hamstrings open more and you learn to release from the hips, the back body will softly round without losing appreciable length in the front body.
To release the asana, inhale as you come up halfway and observe the quality of the brain. If it is effervescent or light, breathe here until it quiets. Since you have been partly upside down, there may be a need to give the blood pressure time to stabilize. Then, on the next inhalation, come up. Bring the feet parallel and release the hands. As you grow more proficient with this asana, you will be able to come up on a single inhalation. Step or lightly jump the feet together and rest in tadasana.
Virabhadrasana III is an internally rotated standing asana in which you are balancing on one leg. It teaches a great deal about hip stability in the context of internal rotation. In this regard it could be seen as the internally rotated equivalent to ardha chandrasana.
1. From virabhadrasana I, fold forward, resting the length of the belly on the thigh. 2. Stabilize the line from the fingers to the back foot and straighten the front leg. 3. Bring the navel over the center of the supporting foot, and bring the torso, lifted leg, and arms parallel to the floor.
Though there are many ways of entering and exiting virabhadrasana III, it is most often taught as an extension of virabhadrasana I. In virabhadrasana I the front body is longer than the back body and has the bias of a back bend, even though it technically is not one. The value of performing it in preparing for virabhadrasana III is that their biases are opposite of one another.
Begin in virabhadrasana I with the right leg forward, fold at the hip joints and rest the length of the belly on the right thigh. It will feel as though you are resting the bottom of the ribs as close to the knee as possible. Let the left heel come off of the floor, bringing the foot onto its toes. This should give you the freedom to square the hips to the front and to the floor.
At this point, there will be a tendency for the right side of the torso to be shorter than the left side. This is usually the result of insufficient depth in the left groin and insufficient length in the right groin. The back leg is where the key work needs to be done. It will require basically two actions.
First, the left femur needs to be internally rotated in the socket. This action will begin to deepen the left groin and lengthen the right side of the torso. However, this action may also begin to sink the left hip down, compromising the level of the hips. Keep the internal rotation of the left femur and lift the head of the femur straight up at the groin to again level the hips. This is not a lifting of the leg, but rather a subtle action in the hip socket that should result in a lift of the sitting bones and a squaring of the hips to the floor, as well as a lengthening of the right groin. If the femur is not lifted, you will probably feel a hardening of the breath in the belly.
The second action is in the right leg. There will be a tendency for the right hip to go out to the side and disturb the parallel alignment of the right leg joints. Keep the right femur internally rotated in the socket and work the right thigh muscles in external rotation to bring the leg bones back into parallel.
Keep both legs working, as described above, as you let the left leg lift from the floor. Keep the feeling of external rotation in the right leg, so that the joints remain parallel as you straighten it. Keep your weight on the inner right heel and ball mount of the big toe, as you work the external rotation of the right thigh. It will feel as though you are lengthening along a diagonal line from the inner heel to the outer hip. The thigh muscles should remain strongly engaged with this action.
Lengthen the entire asana from the inner left heel, through the centerline of the torso, and out through the fingertips. You may need to breathe dominantly into the right lung to further motivate torso symmetry. The body’s center of gravity is somewhere around the navel. The exact location will vary with body proportions. This point should end up over the center of the right foot. If the toes are gripping, it usually means that the weight is too far forward and it needs to be brought more onto the heel. If the hips find stability and the torso sustains its length, the belly should be able to remain soft, and the sternum light. The breath should be able to move freely in the belly, back and chest. To release the asana, slowly bend the right leg and release back to virabhadrasana I. From virabhadrasana I, rest in tadasana. Then repeat on the other side.
Virabhadrasana III - Assists and preparatory work
This may be a challenging asana at first. It is more important that you sustain the carticulation of the asana than the appearance of the finished pose. To work on the asana’s alignment with stability, a chair or block may be used as a support for the hands. The hands can be placed on the back of the chair, with the arms forward, or on the seat of the chair so the hands are below the shoulders, or on a block on the floor.
You may also assist the lifted leg by placing the foot on a wall. This can offer some welcome resistance as you work the leg. You can use either the wall or the chair or both, depending on your needs or what aspects of the asana you choose to focus on.
Like all twists, parivrtta trikonasana provides a deep visceral massage. The hips are deeply opened, as is the chest. All of the visceral and upper bodywork relies on creating great strength and stability in the legs.
1. From tadasana, separate the feet, bringing the heels below the forearms with the arms laterally extended. 2. From the hip socket, turn the right leg out 90 degrees and the left foot inward, to square the torso to the right leg. 3. Inhaling, lift the left arm and the entire inner body. 4. Keeping the length of the inner body, exhale and rotate to the left, placing the left palm on the floor outside the right foot. 5. Expand the ribs and extend the right arm out 90 degrees to the spine.
From tadasana, step or lightly jump the legs apart, so that the heels are below the forearms. From the hip socket, turn the right leg out 90 degrees. Turn the left foot inward enough to square the hips with the right leg. The back foot will be at a deep angle. Generally, the centerline of the asana will run from the inner edge of the front foot to the back of the back heel.
Internally rotate the left femur in the socket, as you resist the shin in external rotation. These actions should straighten the left leg, sustain the arch of the left foot, and minimize weight on the right leg.
Keep the weight on the ball mount of the right foot and inner heel, as you work the right thigh as though it was in external rotation. This should bring the joints (hip, knee, ankle and foot) of the right leg into parallel alignment. Keep the muscles of both legs drawn up, hugging the bones, as you feel the bones extend down through the sheath of the muscles.
Keep the legs firm as you inhale, lifting the left arm and lengthening the inner body. With an exhalation, initiate the rotation to the right as a soft visceral action in the belly. Continue the rotation in the thoracic spine. Twists have more in common with extension of the spine than with flexion. Most of the spine’s ability to rotate is in the cervical area. The second greatest rotation is possible in the thoracic area. Less rotation is possible in the lumbar, and virtually none in the sacrum. As you enter this asana, work to keep the front body slightly longer than the back body. To rotate fully, the visceral body needs to remain soft. This requires the strength of the legs.
Keep the length of the front body and place the left hand wherever it ends up. It can be placed on a block on the inside of the foot or, if you can place the palm on the floor without losing front body length or leg stability, then think about placing the hand on the floor outside the right foot.
Extend the right arm toward the ceiling 90 degrees to the spine. Work the upper arms in external rotation to assist in opening the chest. Keep the circumference of the chest expanded, as the inner scapulas are drawn down the back. With the ribs well opened, turn the head to look up at the right hand. Let the inhalations cultivate inner body length, as the exhalations soften the back muscles, releasing the buttocks down without drop- ping the sitting bones.
To release, inhale and come up. Step or lightly jump the legs together and rest in tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
The qualities of parivrtta parsvakonasana are the same as parivrtta trikonasana, only deeper. The visceral massage is deeper and more detoxifying, and the required hip opening is greater.
1. From tadasana, separate the feet so that the heels are below the wrists with the arms laterally extended. 2. From the right hip socket, turn the right leg out 90 degrees, squaring the hips to the right leg and coming up onto the left toes. 3. Inhaling, lengthen the inner body and lift the left arm as you bend the right knee to bring the shin vertical. 4. Exhaling, revolve the torso and place the left palm the floor outside the right leg. 5. Extend the right arm alongside the head.
From tadasana, step or lightly jump the legs apart so that the heels are below the wrists with the arms laterally extended. From the right hip socket, turn the right leg out 90 degrees. Internally rotate the legs to bring the pelvis square to the right leg. Let this action bring you onto the left toes. Bend the right knee so that the shin is vertical, and be conscious of keeping the joints of the right leg parallel.
With an inhalation, lengthen the inner body and lift the left arm. Keep the legs strong so that you can more readily soften the inner body. Exhale and initiate the rotation as a soft visceral action in the belly. Deepen the rotation by revolving in the thoracic spine. If there is tightness, you can place the left elbow on the right knee, or the left hand on a block inside the right leg instead of on the floor. Typically, the left palm is placed on the floor outside the right leg. Choose a hand placement based on the relative symmetry of the torso. There will be a tendency for the right side of the torso to shorten, therefore, you should use the breath to lengthen the right side of the torso, as the left ribs move in towards the spine. Adjust the left hand position so that breath can be felt in the belly and the left and right kidney area.
The alignment of the legs may be difficult to sustain in this asana. Work to keep the feeling of lift and depth in the left groin, as you keep the joints of the right leg parallel. The right hip may tend to wander out to the side. Keep this to a minimum, as it will shorten the right side of the torso.
Bring the right arm alongside the head. Work the right shoulder in external rotation to release the inner scapula down the back and open the chest. Resist the forearm in internal rotation to face the palm towards the floor. The skin of the palm is almost taut. Lengthen the entire asana from the middle finger of the right hand to the left heel. To release the asana, with an inhalation, reverse the rotation of the torso and come up, placing both feet on the floor parallel with each other. Step or lightly jump the feet together and rest in tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
Prasarita Padottanasana - To expand leg intensely extended pose prasarita - to expand or spread out pada - leg uttana - intensely extended asana - pose
In this asana the pelvis is rotated around the ball and socket joints of the femurs. The hips and hamstrings will open deeply, as the groins lengthen and deepen. The spine is relatively neutral.
1. From tadasana, step or jump the legs apart, so that the heels are below the wrists with the arms laterally extended. 2. Keeping the outsides of the feet parallel and the hands on the hips, inhale, lengthening the inner body. 3. Exhale while keeping the length of the belly, fold at the hips, and place the palms on the floor.
From tadasana, step or jump the legs wide apart. The heels should end up below the wrists with the arms laterally extended. If this is too wide, then a narrower stance is fine. The outside edges of the feet should be parallel. This will create a little bias towards internal rotation in the hips. The knees should end up facing straight forward. If you are tight in the hips, the knees may turn out, in which case more groin depth needs to be cultivated. More often, however, the knees will turn in.
The thighs should work as though they are in external rotation. Resist this action with the feeling of internal rotation in the shins, so the weight does not press into the outer ankle joints. In either case, the legs need to remain engaged throughout.
With the legs engaged, the groins should have depth. There will be a feeling of lift in the sitting bones. Place the hands on the hips and inhale, lifting the inner walls of the ribs. As you inhale, you should be able to add length to the depth of the groins. The back body will soften and the buttocks will release slightly down without dropping the sitting bones.
Exhaling, rotate the pelvis around the femurs to fold forward. The spine can remain quite neutral throughout the entire range of motion available to this asana. Begin with the fingertips or palms on the floor directly below the shoulders. Keep the lift in the sitting bones, as you work the thighs in external rotation. This should maximize the width across the sacrum. If the back body is neutral or hyper-lordotic, place the palms on the floor, shoulder-width apart, with the fingertips in line with the toes. With the next exhalation, bend the elbows straight back and continue to fold forward.
Classically, the top of the head is placed on the floor. The location will vary, not only with your flexibility, but also with your torso length. Occasionally, the torso will be long and the forehead will touch the floor. Either position is acceptable. To release the pose, place the hands on the hips and inhale, coming halfway up. Observe the quality of the brain. If it feels effervescent or light, pause here and breathe until the brain quiets. Then, with the next inhalation, come up. Walk the feet in slightly if necessary, then step or lightly jump the feet together. Rest in tadasana.
Uttanasana - Deliberate lengthened pose ut - deliberate and intense tan - lengthen and extend asana - pose
Uttanasana is a standing forward bend. Bend is really not the best choice of words, even though it is most common. Folding is probably a better word. Folding implies a crease, which is what is experienced at the groins in uttanasana. Although it is a more muscular asana than seated forward bends, it is often taught first, because it more easily educates the legs and hips, and gravity is more in your favor.
1. Stand with the feet parallel, hip-width apart. 2. Broaden the sacrum and deepen the groins, as you fold forward at the hips. 3. Draw the inner scapula toward the hips and rest the hands wherever they reach.
Stand in tadasana. Bring the outer edges of the feet hip-width apart with the centerlines of the feet parallel. Deepen the groins and broaden the sacrum and sitting bones by keeping the inner heels grounded and stretching the floor between your feet. Feel the inner thighs move toward the outer thighs, opening the hips. The legs are working strongly here. Sustain this leg work throughout. Bring the hands to the hips. Keep the depth of the groins, and with an inhalation, lengthen the entire inner body. Feel the inner walls of the ribs lift. You should also feel the groins lengthen with this inner body lift. Keep the inner body length, as you exhale and fold forward. Continue drawing the pubic bone back between the legs and continue lifting the sitting bones. The width of the pelvis should permit you to release the sacrum straight into the pelvis, as though it would drop on the floor between the feet.
If you begin to feel the weight of the ribs on the diaphragm, back up a bit, relengthen the torso, and go no further. The back body should softly round, but not at the expense of the front body. The front body should remain almost neutral as the back body gains length. Cultivate the length of the front body with the inhalations, and see how much you can soften the back muscles with the exhalations. If the legs have sustained their work, the belly should be able to remain soft and open.
Keep all the joints of the legs parallel. If the hips are tight, the knees will tend to turn out. In this case, work more to draw the pubic bone back, deepen the groins and lift the sitting bones. If the hips are loose, the knees will tend to turn in and collapse the arches. If this is the case, work the outer leg muscles more like an external rotation, and release the buttocks down without dropping the sitting bones. In either case, the knee joints should end up facing forward and parallel.
Since you are partly inverted in this asana, the scapulae will want to sink toward the shoulders and arm pits. Since this action will close the chest and put pressure on the diaphragm, work to keep the shoulders toward the back body and the scapulae drawn toward the hips. You can rest your fingertips or palms on the floor or on a block, as needed. If you prefer, you can hold your ankles.
Find a place in this pose that is reasonably comfortable, and remain there for a minute or more to give the hamstrings time to release. It is always best to lengthen the hamstrings with the legs completely straight, if possible. It is better to straighten the legs and diminish the intensity of the asana than to bend the knees and get closer to the floor. However, if the knees are prone to hyperextension or if the quadriceps have a difficult time sustaining the work, the knees should be bent slightly.
To release this asana, exhale and bring the hands to the hips. Inhaling, come half way out of the asana. Since you have been partly inverted, pause here and assess the quality of the brain. If it has an effervescent or light quality to it, remain here and breathe until it passes. Then with your next inhalation come all the way up and rest in tadasana.
Balasana - Child pose bala - child asana - pose
The child’s pose is one of the more quieting asanas for the nervous system, as it brings the breath to the back. It is also valuable for gently and passively opening the groins. 1. Sit on the heels and separate the knees about torso-width apart. 2. Fold forward at the hips and rest the front body on a stack of folded blankets. 3. Rest the head on one side and then after a while on the other.
Sit on the heels with the toes pointed back. The toes may be touching. Separate the knees about the width of the torso, but be conservative; the less separation of the knees, the better. There needs to be just enough space for the blankets that support the torso.
The blankets need to be high enough to support the front body without lifting the hips off the heels. The hips should sit below the height of the shoulders. Though the back body will be softly rounded, the belly should feel no compression from the ribs. Decide how much of the belly to support on the blankets by assessing the comfort of the belly. Let your personal experience guide your decision. Comfort and relaxation are the rules here.
The forearms should be able to rest comfortably on the floor. If a great deal of blan- ket height is needed, it may not be possible to rest the entire length of the forearms on the floor. It is then advisable to place appropriate support under the forearms.
Cultivate the breath in the back of the body. Feel the inhalations opening and broadening the back particularly at the kidney area. Let the exhalations soften and release the back muscles along the length and width of the spine.
Let the head rest on either side to start. When you are about halfway through your stay in the pose, reverse the position of the head for the remainder of time. Take any- where from 5-20 minutes in this asana. Take more time, if you wish.
To release, place the palms on the floor below the shoulders and with an exhalation lift yourself out of the asana. Let the head remain heavy and relaxed until you are upright. Then lift the head.