Extended side angle pose, known as utthita parsvakonasana in Sanskrit, strengthens the leg muscles and joints for a powerful lower body. As a heart opening pose, extended side angle pose opens up the chest for better posture and the hips for greater range of motion in the legs.
- Begin standing in mountain pose (tadasana) at the top of the mat. With both feet on the mat and your hands by your sides, ground through your right foot.
- Exhale. Step your left foot back, approximately three and a half feet behind your right. Line up your left heel with your right. Turn your toes outwards 90°, planting your left foot perpendicular to the long edges of the mat.
- Extend your arms out to the sides, palms facing down. Pull actively outwards through both the arms to open and extend the shoulders.
- Bend your right knee at a 90° angle. Engage both thighs and straighten your left knee.
- Turn your hips to the left, squaring them with the long edge of the mat.
- Inhale. Exhale. Keeping your hips and abdomen squared to the long edge of the mat, bend over your right leg. Bend your right elbow and rest your forearm on your right thigh. Extend your left arm straight up.
- Inhale. Exhale. Straighten your right arm and slowly slide the arm down the inside of your calf until your fingers touch the floor. Keep your hips and chest open and your left arm extended.
- Plant your right hand on the mat inside your right foot. Push through your right palm to open the chest even more.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Inhale and bring the right forearm back to your thigh. Exhale. Then inhale and come up into warrior II (virabhadrasana II). Exhale and step to the front of the mat. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modifications and Props
Plant your palm outside your front foot. For a deeper side stretch and heart opener, slide your arm down the outside of your calf in step seven (above) and plant your palm on the mat outside your front foot.
Rest your palm on a prop. After stepping back in step two (above), place a prop on the inside or outside of your front foot. In step seven, plant your palm on the prop instead of on the mat.
Reach your raised arm forward. In step six (above) extend your left arm over your head and forwards, palm facing forwards, for a deeper side stretch.
Bound Extended Side Angle Pose (Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana). Instead of planting your palm in step eight (above), work your shoulder down into the inside of your knee. Inhale and bring your left arms behind you, pinning it against your back. Keep the elbow as straight as possible. Reach your right hand under your right leg and grab ahold of your left hand or wrist. Gently pull the left arm down and back to open up the chest. Breath and hold the pose. Exhale and release your arms, moving into step ten.
Bird of Paradise Pose (Svarga Dvijasana). In bounded extended side angle pose (directly above), step your left foot forward, next to your right. Transfer your weight to your left foot and root through it. Lift your right leg, so you are balancing completely on your left. Straighten up, keeping your right leg bound. Straighten your right knee. Breath and hold the pose. To leave, release your arms and bring your right foot to the mat. Shake out your legs and repeat the pose, from the beginning, on the opposite side.
Extended side angle pose strengthens the lower half of the body. The pose is especially beneficial for building muscle in the thighs, which carry the weight of the pose. The pose also alleviates lower backache by strengthening the obliques in the abdomen.
The deep hip opener lengthens the gluteal muscles associated with hip rotations, leading to greater range of motion in the legs. Opening through both the hips and chest stimulates the abdominal organs for digestive benefits including alleviating constipation.
Those with knee injuries should avoid this pose, which puts pressure on the knee joints.
On the way to extended side angle pose, the body naturally goes through warrior II pose (virabhadrasana II). It makes sense, then to transition into the pose from warrior II during your flow. When you come out of the pose, come back into warrior II. Then transition into sun salutation (surya namaskara) by cartwheeling your arms onto the mat and stepping back into plank, then chaturanga.
Quadriceps. The quadriceps muscles cover the front and sides of the femur, making up much of the muscle mass of the thighs. The quads stabilize and allow extension of the knee joint. Extended side angle pose builds strength in the quads, which engage when the legs are bent.
Hamstring muscles. The three hamstring muscles – the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris – run along the back of the thigh. They extend the hip, flex the knee, and rotate the lower leg. Extended side angle pose engages the hamstrings in a hip opener.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii is the large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening the arm. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk, as does extended side angle pose when you push off the mat to straighten the arms and open the chest.
Serratus anterior muscles. The serratus anterior muscles are located on the sides of the chest, just below the armpits. They rotate the scapula when the arms are lifted above the chest. In extended side angle pose, the chest opener engages the serratus anterior muscles.
Abdominal muscles. The abdominals are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. Extended side angle pose stretches the obliques in the sides of the abdomen.
Gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. They are responsible for moving the hips and thighs. Extended side angle pose stretches the gluteus medius and minimus, which allow external rotation when the hip is extended.
Want to try a beneficial yoga move? Check out the plow pose for beginners.