Utthita Parsvakonasana/Extended Side Angle Pose One of my favorite yoga transitions is from Virabhadrasana/Warrior 2 to another, more intense hip opener: Utthita Parsvakonasana/Extended Side Angle Pose. But keep in mind that Side Angle Pose does way more than just open your hips. It also strengthens and stretches your thighs, ankles and knees, lengthens your torso and benefits overall core strength.
Another importance fact about Side Angle Pose is that it can be modified for almost any practice level, allowing all practitioners to reap the physical benefits and making it a constant feature in many yoga classes.
For all you yogis with achy hips and legs, this one’s for you!
Utthita Parsvakonasana/Extended Side Angle Pose Optional Props: One Yoga Block
1. From Virabhadrasana2 /Warrior 2 with your R knee bent to 90 degrees and your left leg straight, begin to exhale as you extend both sides of your torso forward toward the bent knee and rest your R forearm on your R thigh. Make sure that your torso remains long and does not collapse toward the floor.
Advanced Tip: If you have more flexibility in your hips, consider placing your block on the inside of the R foot and slide your hand down to rest flat on top of the block. If this is still too easy, remove the block and place your hand directly on the floor on the inside of your foot. Be sure to maintain the integrity of your spine (read: keep your torso long) throughout the pose. If you notice that depth in the pose causes the torso to collapse toward the floor and the back to round, return your forearm to your thigh as in Step 1.
2. Depending on what variation you’ve chosen for the R arm, press your forearm or upper arm into the R leg to help open your hip even more toward the wall behind you and use this movement as leverage to help you open your chest toward the wall in front of you. Maintain that constant pressure against the leg to keep the stretch consistent.
3. On your next inhale, raise your L arm toward the ceiling, so that your shoulders are nearly stacked on top of one another, and look up toward your L hand. If you have the flexibility in your shoulders, continue this movement by reaching the L arm over your head in the direction of your R foot and turn your gaze to the inside of the L elbow.
4. Ground your L foot firmly into the floor/mat and feel a line of energy running through the foot, all the way along the outside of the L leg, through your torso and out through your left fingertips. Continue extending your upper body toward the R as you maintain the connection with the ground through your L foot.
5. Hold the pose and breathe for 30-60 seconds.
6. When you are ready to come out of the pose, raise your L arm toward the ceiling and press down firmly through both feet, as you use the L arm to lift yourself out of the pose on your inhale, returning to a Virabhadrasana 2/Warrior 2 position.
7. Return to Virabhadrasana 2/Warrior 2 on the L side and repeat Steps 1-6.
For more information on Extended Side Angle Pose, visit: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/749.