Parsvottanasana. Preparations Hamstring and calf muscle stretches and back arching

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1 Parsvottanasana Intense Side Stretch Parsva = Side. Ut = Intense. Tan = Stretch. Asana = Pose. This posture works the legs strongly, developing both strength and suppleness in them. The shoulders and wrists in the full arm position can be challenging, however the stages for this area of the posture need to ensure that the chest is kept open to each person s best ability. Anything to watch out for? Ensure that the chest is open and the back is not rounded with the shoulders coming forward. This is a deep forward bend, so high BP students should keep the head above the heart. Preparations Hamstring and calf muscle stretches and back arching Method From the Wall We will look at this posture from two positions, initially using the wall, then transferring these actions to free standing on our mats. We will consider various arm positions and two rear foot actions too. Facing the wall, step back and fold forward until the arms and torso are parallel with the floor and the hips are over the heels Take the right foot forward and the left foot back, so that the torso and arms are still parallel with the floor, but now the legs are apart and on tram lines

2 Ensure that the inner borders of the feet remain parallel with one another, so that you feel a stretch in the left calf muscle, as shown in the picture. Avoid allowing the heel of the back foot to swing in, as shown in the picture below, as this movement will open the hips. In this asana we are working to keep the hips facing forward, so that the deep forward bend comes from a neutral position of the pelvis. Keeping the back heel strongly in contact with the floor, bend the front knee, and walk the hands down the wall encouraging the right front thigh and the abdomen to come into contact. If you are comfortable here, you may take the hands to the floor or onto the shin. Keep the attention and strong contact with the heel of the left foot and the floor and begin to straighten the right leg, maintaining contact between the thigh and abdomen at all times.

3 Once there Consider two drusti or gaze points, and observe if one or the other enhances the posture. 1) Look up so that the gaze is towards the big toe joint of the front foot. (Caution with the neck here) 2) Keeping the head in line with the spine, let the gaze be towards the back foot. Coming Out Bend the front knee, bring the hands back to the wall and reverse the process of entering the posture. Now repeat to the other side. Method From the Mat From the front of your mat, rest your hands on your hips and take the left foot back, with the feet on tram lines. Lift the sternum and the collar bones, ensuring a shadow of a back arch. Keep the back heel strongly in contact with the floor, bend the front knee, fold forward, encouraging the right front thigh and the abdomen to come into contact.

4 Keep the attention and strong contact with the heel of the left foot and begin to straighten the right leg, maintaining contact between the thigh and abdomen. If you are comfortable here, you may take the hands to the floor or onto the shin. (use blocks to raise the floor to your hands if preferred) Once there Maintain strong heel floor contact in the back foot, work towards keeping the chest open, and consider the drusti again. 1) Look up so that the gaze is towards the big toe joint of the front foot. (Caution with the neck here) 2) Keeping the head in line with the spine, let the gaze be towards the back foot. Coming Out Bend the front knee before lifting the chest, engage the back muscles to ensure that no stretch is felt in them, using the hands on the bent front leg to assist if required. Now repeat to the other side. Too challenging at the moment? Continue to work with the wall practices. Use a block for the hands, a block, wedge or a wall to engage the heel of the back foot With this approach, we are encouraging the inner borders of the feet to stay parallel with one another, intensifying the calf stretch and generally accepting that the step back will not be as great as it might be should the heel of the back foot lift from the floor.

5 With another equally valid approach, the back foot heel is allowed to swing into the centre. This has the effect of making balancing easier, and also easing the stretch of the calf muscle of the rear leg somewhat, this method allows the step back to be greater, so is a useful approach or action. However, this movement also opens the hips, so we will have to make a physical action of drawing that rear leg hip to face forward. This will to some extent involve a rotating action taking place in the knee joint, so ensure that the knee is not compromised if using this approach. Variations In this posture, variations are mainly related to the position that the arms are placed in, so below are some progressive activities in this area. A. The arms are taken behind the back, and the hands or wrists are held. B. The arms are taken behind the back, and the opposite, forearm or elbow are held by each hand.

6 C. The arms are taken behind the back, palms touching and fingers pointing down with the elbows bent. D. The arms are taken behind the back, the fingers interlinked and driven downwards, arms straightening and lifting the chest. With this arm position, once in the full posture, the arms can be lifted from the back to intensify the forward fold. E. The classical example. Hands in prayer position behind the back, fingers pointing upwards and the little fingers pressing into the spine. Tip With all the arm positions think about taking the elbows back, this will assist in lifting the sternum, collar bones and opening the chest. Benefits B.K.S. Iyengar suggests that (1): This asana relieves stiffness in the legs and hip muscles, corrects rounded and drooping shoulders and makes deep breathing easier. Yoga journal suggests that it Calms the brain Stretches the spine, shoulders and wrists (in the full pose), hips, and hamstrings Strengthens the legs Stimulates the abdominal organs Improves posture and sense of balance

7 Improves digestion Stretches the calf muscles Bibliography Iyengar B K S (1991) Light on Yoga; The Aquarian Press Yoga journal on line 2013 References [1] Iyengar (page 80) (2) Bob Insley; June 2013

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