Pose of the month is written by Hatha teacher, Vaishali Iyer, photos by Haryati Mahmoud.
This foundational standing posture actually has a lot going on within it and a lot of possibilities to explore – read on for key actions, tips and variations.
1. To enter the posture, take a stance with the front foot pointing directly forward and the back foot turned in at least 90°, so it’s parallel with the back edge of the mat. Align the heel of the front foot with the inner arch of the back foot. Then, raise the arms out to the sides and make sure that your wrists align with your ankles to get the right length for your stance.
2. As you exhale, bend the front knee to a 90° angle or just a little higher, and come into Warrior II. Press down through both feet, especially the inner heel and big toe of the front foot, and the outer edge of the back foot. Feel the shinbone of the front leg pushing down through the heel into the earth.
3. Imagine or make the action that you’re pulling your feet towards each other, but don’t actually move them. This isometric movement will help you feel the stability of your lower body and the energy rising up the inside of the legs from the feet.
4. Make sure your front knee pushes back, tracking over your ankle and in line with the second toe of the front foot. At the same time, firm the back leg (without hyper-extending the knee) to ensure maximum opening of the hips.
5. Then, as you exhale, lean the body forward, over the front leg and slide the front arm down. For a more accessible variation, you can rest your elbow on the front knee. To go further, bring the hand down to the ground (or block). Generally, having the arm inside the leg is easier than outside.
6. Check to see that the weight of your torso isn’t pressing into your arm or hand – really engage the muscles of the core and back to try to lift and lengthen the torso away from the ground.
7. As you inhale, stretch the other overhead so it is in line with your ear, with the fingers reaching diagonally up and forward.
8. Feel the stretch all down this diagonal line, from your fingertips to the back edge of the back foot.
9. As you inhale, let the ribs expand sideways to further stretch the side body. Keep the lower belly drawn in slightly to enhance this feeling.
10. Feel the whole of the back and the whole of the front of the body stretching and expanding evenly. Shoulder blades move apart, ribs and heart expand, shoulders and collarbones spread.
11. If your hand is on the ground with the arm on the inside of the leg, press back with your arm into your lower leg to keep your body in line. If the arm is on the outside of the leg, press your knee back into your arm for the same reason.
12. Breathe here for 5 breaths, or as long as is comfortable.
13. To release, inhale and lift the body up as you straighten the front leg.
Parivritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
Try this when you want to add in a twist to this pose, or if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge.
1. The easiest way (for me) to enter the revolved version is to start with the back knee on the ground and the front leg bent with the foot on the ground. You’re looking for a position in which your front shin and back thigh are perpendicular to the floor.
2. From here, inhale and raise the arms up. Exhale and begin to twist, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee (or vice versa on the other side).
3. From here, you can bring your hands into prayer as shown in the photo, or you can take the left hand to the ground and the right hand up and extending overhead if that’s an option for your body.
4. Then, once you feel stable, you can inhale and straighten the back leg, lifting the knee of the ground and finding your balance on your toes. Keep your gaze low, soft and steady on a fixed point to help you balance.
5. Squeeze the right hip in towards the midline to maintain your alignment, even as your right knee pushes out into your arm.
6. If you want to, you can then bring the back heel to the ground in a similar manner as in the original posture, but depending on your body this may or may not be an accessible option for you. If you do bring it down, take it a little out to the side to make room for your hips (so the feet are essentially hip-width apart, rather than aligned heel-to-arch).
7. Take a few breaths here, feeling the twist (and everything else!). Try to spread the collarbones and broaden the shoulders and chest as much as possible to get a nice, deep breath in and out.
8. To release, exhale as you bring the upper arm down, and inhale to release the twist and bring the body up. Enjoy!