Your Monthly Yoga Pose
The final month of the year is here! December is full of emotions and giving everything the final push to finish the year strong. Perhaps you look forward to the end of Q4, donating to an organization to get the last tax break, or maybe you look forward to taking some much-needed time off. Either way, December is the last reach, the last stretch before a fresh new year begins.
Extended side angle, or Utthita Parsvakonasana, is exactly that. This pose is the ultimate reach. The pose is grounding and strengthening in the legs, lightness in the arms, and a complete body stretch. In addition to the side body receiving a stretch, the hamstrings and groin muscles receive a deep stretch as well. The pose looks deceptively simple, but a number of stabilizing muscles work together to keep you aligned. And it is easy to sag in the pelvic floor, which decreases the effectiveness of the pose.
1. Begin in mountain pose and step your left leg back about 3-4 feet.
2. Allow your hips to open to the side but keep the right toes pointed toward the top of the mat.
3. The left foot should slightly angle in.
4. Bend the right leg and try to get the right thigh parallel to the ground. (It requires some flexibility to do this, so try and bend as much as you safely can.)
5. Keep the left leg straight and lean the upper body toward the right side.
6. Place the full palm of the right hand on the ground next to the outer edge of the right foot. (This also requires a great deal of flexibility.) A few variations are possible for the right arm and hand placement. You may bend the right arm and gently place the elbow on the right thigh. The right arm may reach toward the front or side of the mat. A block may be used to bring the ground closer to the right hand. The right hand may come on the inside of the right foot. The right arm may come under the thigh and bind with the left. Lots of options are available for the right arm, but please find a placement that maintains the integrity of the pose and allows you to breathe deeply while in it.
7. While maintaining strength in the legs, reach the left arm overhead. If you have the range of motion in your neck, gaze at the left fingertips.
8. Breathe for five full breaths and switch sides.
According to the Yoga Anatomy Book, Utthita Parsvakonasana asks the spine to maintain neutrality as you stretch the side body. In addition, breath action in this posture provides very useful asymmetrical stimulation to the diaphragm and all the organs attached to it.
Extended side angle pose feels like the ultimate reach. In my personal practice, I have pulled away from practicing the full expression as I find strength and ease in using a block, enabling me to breath more effectively. I hope you are able to find strength and ease during the month of December. And I hope you are able to breathe deep.