Poses by Type

Intense Side Stretch Pose

Work consciously to ground through your hands and feet with Intense Side Stretch Pose, called Parsvottanasana in Sanskrit. Parsvottanasana encourages balance, body awareness, and inspires confidence.


How to say Parsvottanasana in Sanskirt

(parsh-voh-tahn-AHS-anna)

parsva = side, flank
ut = intense
tan = to stretch or extend (compare the Latin verb tendere, to stretch or extend”)

Intense Side Stretch Pose Step-by-Step Instructions

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger Mugger
  1. Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the top of the mat. 
  2. Place your hands at your hips, and notice that your frontal hipbones are square to the front of the mat. 
  3. Observe also that the two sides of your waist are equally long—your side bodies are even. 
  4. Keeping your hips square and your hands at your hips, step your left foot back 3.5–4 feet. 
  5. Line up heel to heel with your back foot at a 45-degree angle. 
  6. Having stepped back, notice what has changed with your pelvis.
  7. To recreate the squared pelvis from Tadasana, root down with your right big toe mound while pinning your right outer hip back and in toward your left heel. 
  8. Spin your left inner thigh back to roll your left outer hip forward. 
  9. Simultaneously press your left thighbone back and drop anchor with your left heel. 
  10. On an inhalation, spread your arms out to the sides. 
  11. On an exhalation, internally rotate your arms, bend your elbows, and bring your palms together behind your back; press the whole of each hand together. 
  12. Externally rotate your shoulders by drawing the heads of your upper arms back and spinning your biceps toward your triceps. 
  13. Inhale; lengthen your spine, and engage your quadriceps. 
  14. Exhale; hinge at your hips, and begin to fold forward and down. 
  15. Reach your sternum away from your navel, and keep your collar bones broad to maintain openness in your front body. 
  16. Keep rolling the heads of your upper arms back and up away from the floor as you descend your torso. 
  17. Continue pinning your right hip back and into your midline while rolling your left hip forward and down. 
  18. Stay rooted through your right big toe mound and your left outer heel. 
  19. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then on an exhalation, press down firmly with your feet. 
  20. With the next inhalation, use the strength of your legs to come up. 
  21. Step your left foot forward, returning to Tadasana. 
  22. Repeat on the other side.

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Intense Side Stretch Pose Cues

Contraindications and Cautions of Intense Side Stretch

  • Avoid or modify if you have acute back pain or injuries, including surgeries, osteoporosis, disc bulging or herniation, arthritis, or SI (sacroiliac) pain. 
  • Avoid or be particularly cautious if you have a hamstring tear, groin tear, hip replacement, a hernia, or SI (sacroiliac) dysfunction/pain. 
  • Use caution or avoid rounding your spine forward into spinal flexion in this pose if you have osteoporosis, disc bulging or herniation (depending on the direction of the herniation, ask your doctor), or other back pain or issues. Instead, try the more gentle modifications with a flat back and elongating spine. 
  • Don’t force your body into the pose; instead, move slowly and mindfully in and out of the pose. 
  • If you have any pain with the pose or other limitations, try pose variations and modifications, or visualize doing the full expression of the pose in any position. Always ask your health care team if you are unsure of what you can and cannot do with your particular health concerns. Also, seek a qualified yoga instructor or yoga therapist to help you individually adapt the pose for safety.

Benefits of Intense Side Stretch

  • Improves balance 
  • Can help counteract sitting too much 
  • Can help stimulate proper digestion by facilitating movement through the digestive tract (peristalsis) 
  • Strengthens your core muscles 

Standing thigh

  • Strengthens your thighs and ankles. Also stretches the back of your thigh (hamstring) and buttock (glute). 

Lifted thigh

  • Stretches your groin and front of your hip (hip flexor), including your psoas. 
  • Strengthens your thigh (especially your outer thigh/abductor) and buttock (glute).

3 Ways to Modify Intense Side Stretch 

1. Intense side Stretch with Blocks

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger Mugger
  • If you can’t comfortably reach the floor, bring the floor to you with blocks at any height

2. Intense side Stretch on the chair

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger MuggerChris Dougherty
  • Try with your hands to the seat or back of a chair for more accessibility. 
  • Elongate your spine. 
  • This is particularly great for people who need to avoid rounding (flexion) of the spine in poses due to osteoporosis, spinal disc issues, or other back issues.

3. Intense Side Stretch on a Wall

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger MuggerChris Dougherty
  • Try against the wall with your hands at any height
  • Press firmly into the wall

Preparatory Poses for Intense Side Stretch

Follow-up Poses after Intense Side Stretch

  • Dandasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Uttanasana 

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