Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) is a dynamic, extending posture which, though challenging, offers an unmistakable feeling of rejuvenation and presence. The asana stretches the muscles all along the sides of your body, running from your fingertips and outer arm to your torso, hip, leg, and foot. This increases your ability to open your chest, lengthen your spine, and develop strong posture. You’re getting stronger and more balanced, too. The focus required in this pose can also help support steady, nourishing breath—which is essential both while practicing yoga and in everyday life.
Certified yoga therapist Nikki Costello compares the energetics of Utthita Parsvakonasana to a natural movement you make when you wake up in the morning: raising both arms upward and outward, taking a deep breath, and yawning. “Both humans and animals do it with full abandon,” Costello says. “What you are doing instinctually is stretching the sides of your body to inspire a deep and satisfying breath. It feels as though every cell of your body joins together, breathes, and says, ‘YES! I am awake!’ ”
It’s easy to see the power of Utthita Parsvakonasana, which engages your muscles fully to create a single extension from the outer heel of the straight leg all the way to the fingertips of the arm overhead. By learning to focus on the many disparate details of the pose simultaneously, you not only achieve extension through the side body, but you also train your mind to have a single focus. Practicing in this way can enhance your ability to concentrate and reach for your goals.Section divider
Extended Side Angle Pose basics
Sanskrit: Utthita Parsvakonasana (oo-TEE-tah Parsh-vah-cone-AHS-anna)
utthita = extended
parsva = side, flank
kona = angle
Pose Type: Standing Balance
Targets: Lower BodySection divider
Extended Side Angle Pose improves balance, boosts energy and fights fatigue; it may help build confidence and empowerment. It improves posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and doing computer work.
Other Extended Side Angle perks:
- Strengthens your core, including your abdominals and back muscles
- Stretches and strengthens around your shoulder joints
- Strengthens the front of your hips (hip flexor), shins, buttocks (glutes), inner thighs (adductor and groin), and ankle.
Extended Side Angle Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Jump your legs about 4 feet apart. Extend your arms into a T position, with your palms facing down; reach out through the fingertips as if your arms were being pulled in opposite directions.
- Turn your left foot out to 90 degrees, and turn your right foot slightly inward. Lift through your spine, keeping the sides of your torso equally long.
- Press your right outer foot and heel to the floor as you bend your left knee toward a 90-degree angle with your left thigh parallel to the floor. Adjust your stance to establish a strong foundation.
- Lean toward your left knee, hinging at the hips to bring your left arm own toward the floor. You may place your left fingertips to the ground or on a block. Move your left armpit close to the outer left knee so your arm and shin are parallel.
- Reach your right arm up over your right ear, palm facing the floor. Turn your chest toward your raised arm and press the right hip toward the floor to create a straight line from your right ankle to you
- Turn your head to look past your right thumb. Breathe freely in the pose. Stay for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Inhale reach up then bring your torso up and straighten the left leg. Switch sides.
Explore the pose
- Press down through all four corners of both feet to create steadiness and balance.
- Pull your shoulder blades in toward your spine and keep your chest open as you turn your torso upward.
- Keep extending: When you reach your top arm overhead, press down through your foot, and reach even further through your arm and hand.
- If it is not comfortable to turn your gaze upward, instead look straight ahead or drop your gaze to your right foot.
Deepen the pose
- If you find your weight shifting into your front foot, lift the ball of the front foot off the floor, anchor through your heel, then lower the ball of your front foot onto the floor.
- Press the head of your back femur deep into its socket, lift your inner back groin deep into your leg, and allow the hip to press downward, creating a straighter line from fingers to ankle.
- To deepen the pose, take a half or full bind with the top arm. If it doesn’t compromise your alignment, bring the arm down, bend your elbow and reach it behind your back for a half bind. If it is comfortable for you, reach the lower arm under and behind the front thigh and reach your bottom hand for your top wrist.
It can be easy to focus all of your attention on your top arm and side. When this happens, your bottom side tends to collapse, with your ear close to her head. If you experience this, press down through the bottom hand and actively shrug your shoulder away from your ear. Also, if your bottom ribs feel compressed, stretch to lengthen through that entire side of your body.Section divider
Extended Side Angle variations
Extended Side Angle Pose with forearm on thigh
If you can’t easily touch the fingertips of your lower hand to the floor, rest your forearm on the top of the bent-knee thigh. Press down into the thigh with your forearm to prevent your bottom shoulder from crowding your neck.
Extended Side Angle Pose with a block
If you can’t easily touch the fingertips of your lower hand to the floor, rest your hand on a block at any height. The block can be on the inside or the outside of your foot. Bring your top arm straight up toward the ceiling or overhead.
Extended Side Angle Pose in a chair
Sit in a chair and carefully turn your hips and thighs into position as best you can. Bring your bottom hand or forearm onto the thigh on your bent knee side. Reach your other arm up and over into a side stretch or any other position, including bending your top elbow and reaching your arm behind your back to open your shoulder. You can look up if that’s comfortable for your neck.Section divider
Preparatory and counter poses
Since Extended Side Angle engages nearly the entire body, you want to first incorporate poses into your practice that address full-body movement, including Surya Namaskar A. Also emphasize poses that lengthen your side body and stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps.
Counter PosesSection divider
Your body in Extended Side Angle Pose | Anatomy
Imagine that in a Warrior pose, you are taking an exaggerated step in preparation to throw a spear. Extended Side Angle, or Utthita Parsvokasana, would be the follow-through of throwing the spear, explains Ray Long, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and yoga instructor.
In the drawings below, pink muscles are stretching and blue muscles are contracting. The shade of the color represents the force of the stretch and the force of contraction. Darker = stronger.
Combining the action of the shoulder and arm with anchoring the back foot into the mat creates a stretch of the entire side of the body, including the upper-side back muscles, the front-leg gluteals, the front of the pelvis (including the back-leg adductors), and the calf muscles of the back leg.
Straighten the back knee by activating the quadriceps and the tensor fascia latae muscle of the thigh. Then try to draw the top of the foot toward the shin by engaging the tibialis anterior muscle to anchor the heel.
The lower-side abdominal oblique and transverse muscles draw the trunk toward the bent leg, stretching the same muscles on the upper side of the trunk. On the lower side, the muscles along the spine and those in the lower back (the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum) bend the trunk to the side, stretching the corresponding muscles on the upper side.
Press the bottom hand onto the floor or a block to contract the serratus anterior. This straightens the arm and draws the same-side shoulder blade away from the midline. The muscles over the shoulder blades, the infraspinatus and teres minor, turn the shoulder and arm out. The lower section of the trapezius draws the shoulders away from the ears, freeing the neck.
Press the outer knee into the arm to engage the gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata. Notice how this counteracts the tendency of the pelvis to move outward and the knee to drift inward. Connecting the arm and leg in this manner creates leverage and combines with the action of the back-leg gluteus maximus to open the front of the pelvis.Section divider
Put Extended Triangle Pose into practice
- Think You Can’t Come Into Compass Pose? This 45-Minute Practice Will Get You There
- How to Flow Through the Heat of Pitta Season With Grace
- Yes, You Can Come Into Visvamitrasana
About our contributors
Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.
Ray Long is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a popular series of yoga anatomy books, and the Daily Bandha, which provides tips and techniques for teaching and practicing safe alignment. Ray graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and pursued post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over 20 years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters, and teaches anatomy workshops at yoga studios around the country.