How to Do Intense Side Stretch Pose in Yoga (Guide to Parsvottanasana)

Intense Side Stretch Pose or Pyramid Pose is a deep forward bend posture that stretches the entire facial layer on the back of the body. This yoga pose takes the classic forward fold to the next level. It is excellent for any yoga practitioner looking for a deeper stretch with an added balance challenge and shoulder opening component.

“Every time I flow into Pyramid Pose, I feel an immediate sense of calm spread throughout my body and mind,” says Yoga Answered contributor Isabella Koepf. “This pose automatically shifts your energy by gently inverting your upper body and increasing blood flow to the brain.”

Intense Side Stretch Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Parsvottanasana
Pose Type: Forward Bend Yoga Poses, Standing Yoga Poses
Difficulty Level: Intermediate pose
Targets: Hamstrings, calves, spine, shoulders, wrists, and hips
Benefits: Improves posture, strengthens the legs, lengthens the spine, stimulates digestion and abdominal organs, calms the mind, stretches the legs, hips, spine, and shoulders, strengthens the core, improves balance
Preparatory Poses: Forward Fold Pose, Triangle Pose, Warrior I Pose, High Lunge Pose Crescent Variation, Downward-Facing Dog pose, Wide-Legged Forward Fold, Cow Face Pose

How to Do Intense Side Stretch Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Begin in a standing position at the top of your mat.
  2. Then place your hands on your hips and step your left foot back behind you, placing your left foot flat on the ground at a 45-degree angle with approximately a 3-foot gap between your heels. Try to line up your heels with each other.
  3. Keep your hands on your hips and square your hips toward the front of your mat.
  4. With an inhalation, open your arms out in line with your shoulders. Then with an exhalation, internally rotate your arms so your palms are facing backward, bend your elbows and bring your palms together behind your back. If you cannot get your palms together, you can also wrap your hands around your elbows, forming a square shape with your arms wrapped behind your back.
  5. Inhale, look up towards the ceiling and lengthen your spine. Then, exhale and hinge at your hips as you fold forward over your front thigh, reaching your chest towards your front foot.
  6. Keep your chest open and gaze towards your toes as you try to maintain a flat back in this posture.
  7. To exit the pose, engage your legs to lift your upper body back up and release your arms by your sides.
  8. Then step your feet back together at the top of your mat in a standing position and repeat this pose on the opposite side.

Beginner’s Tip

If you struggle to balance in this yoga pose, try moving your back foot closer to the edge of your yoga mat to create a wider space between your heels rather than lining them up. But make sure not to go too wide. A good visual is to imagine placing your feet on two separate railway tracks that are approximately in line with your hips.

If you feel any tension in your arms during this yoga pose, an alternative variation is to reach your hands towards the ground and try to place your palms flat on the mat. If you cannot reach the ground, you can also place your hands on blocks for added support.

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