Stiff yoga guide: Parshvottanasana

Last pose, if you will, of the basic/fundamental part of Ashtanga: Parshvottanasana.


But first, the usual reminder: I’m on a now more than month-long return to basics approach to Ashtanga, with a focus on trying to emphasize both the stretches in the pose and the correct alignment, rather than moving more fully into the poses.

What I’ll be talking about here is the tweaks being made that run counter to the usual way these poses are taught.

This probably is the pose with the least major modifications. I’m trying to decide if that means there isn’t much to it. Turn, position your feet and legs correctly, get those arms in place and fold.

But here is a trick for folks with tight shoulders, who don’t want to keep doing the grabbing elbows behind your back adjustment in this pose. This is one I’ve been doing for years:

Get one arm or the other behind you with your fingers facing up and your palm as close to vertical as possible (I lead with my right arm, which is my tighter one, but I’m not sure if that’s just my habit or a better way to do it — I think it is better to lead with the tighter one, as I’ll talk about in a second). Then, bring the other arm around and try to work the second hand against the first and nudge both farther up your back toward the “correct position” for this pose. You’ll want to make sure your shoulders are back, which helps with that nudging. (Holly Gastil, who teaches at Tim Miller’s, taught me this way back.)

This is another one of those poses that, I think, might provide a novice (as I’m assuming most “stiff” practitioners are) a gateway toward the bandhas. There’s the chance to pull in Uddiyana Bandha and I find the leg position here focuses on Mula Bandha. (Is that because you are, almost literally, pointing right at it with your legs?)

Making sure the hips are square may be another key thing to think about, one that may not come naturally if flexibility is an issue. Keep trying to pull the front hip back. And don’t round the back to get your chin closer to your leg — that’s cheating.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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