The Intense Side Stretch Pose, Pyramid Pose, or Parsvottanasana, is a deep stretch pose and a forward fold that works your hamstrings and hip muscles and lengthens your legs and spine.
The posture has a narrow stance and can help you with stability, strengthen your core, and improve balance and digestion.
Intense Side Stretch Pose Basics
The Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid Pose extends your spine and opens your shoulders, but you need to have a stable base and strength in your legs. This is a dual stretch pose; it embodies opposites and requires both freedom and stability.
This forward bend targets your lower body and can bring a deep sense of awareness to the different muscles in your body.
The Intense Side Stretch pose is one of the most popular preparatory poses and includes elements such as reverse prayer and pelvic floor engagement, making it a favorite among yoga practitioners and yoga teachers.
Benefits of the Intense Side Stretch Pose
This forward bend yoga pose requires you to activate every part of your body in an intense stretch, so it provides numerous benefits for your spine, hips, shoulders, wrists, abdominal muscles, and hamstrings.
The Pyramid Pose is perfect for improving your posture and helping your nervous system, controlling high blood pressure, achieving easier balance, and gaining upper body strength.
This fold-forward yoga pose also stimulates the abdominal organs and digestion and can also calm your mind.
Intense Side Stretch: Step-by-step Instructions
- You should begin this yoga pose in the Mountain Pose.
- Exhale and step your right foot back about 3 feet. Keep your heels in one line.
- Rotate your back foot out 30 degrees and face your torso forward.
- Press your hands together in prayer behind your back (reverse prayer) and inhale, opening your chest.
- Exhale and encourage the spine to get longer. Fold over your left leg (front leg), reaching your forehead toward your knee.
- Lift your kneecaps up to engage your legs. Draw your abdominals in and keep your shoulder blades away from the ears and your chin tucked. Your head should be in line with the rest of the spine.
- Hold the pose for five slow full breaths.
- Inhale and return to Mountain Pose. Stand straight.
Common Mistakes of the Intense Side Stretch Pose
When practicing the Intense Side Stretch Pose or Pyramid Pose, make sure you don't hyperextend the knees or round your shoulders and back. You should reach for length using the crown of your head down to your tailbone.
Many students tend to take too wide a stance when they start to practice this pose. Your right foot and left foot should be closer together than they would in other standing poses so you can maintain balance while you forward-bend from the hips.
To perform safely, avoid folding lower than your straight spine would allow you when doing this forward fold. Don't lock the knee joint, this will help you protect your hamstrings.
Make sure you are pressing all four corners of your feet for more stability and adjust your hand position and depth of the Pyramid Pose, especially if you have back or shoulder injuries.
Variations of Intense Side Stretch Pose
You can use yoga blocks to aid you in your Intense Side Stretch Pose or Pyramid Pose. This is an excellent solution if you want to maintain the integrity of the posture but can't reach the floor without rounding your back.
Other variations for this yoga pose include keeping your arms outstretched alongside the ears (this will increase the challenge of the fold forward) and trying the Intense Side Stretch Pose with the back heel lifted.
You can also lift your arms up to the sides, fingers pointing outward, to add extra work for your back muscles.
Your elbows should be bent as you take deep breaths, and you should squeeze your shoulder blades together when you inhale. As you exhale, lower your arms - and repeat a few times.
How To Teach Intense Side Stretch Pose
To protect your yoga students from injury and help them achieve the best Intense Side Stretch Pose, Pyramid Pose, or Parsvottanasana, make sure the knees have a soft bend.
Students should activate the legs, hips, and abs and avoid too much pressure on the knee ligaments and hamstrings.
The hips should also face forward (hips square) at all times and not lift on any one side more than the other.
As a yoga teacher, you can also remind your students to press their big toe and inner heel on the floor for more firmness.
Accessories for Intense Side Stretch
You can use the following accessories to help your Pyramid Pose:
The Intense Side Stretch, Pyramid Pose or Utthita Trikonasana is an excellent deep forward fold that can help you stretch your legs (front leg, front foot, left thigh, kneecaps, front knee, back knee, and hamstrings), hips (right hip and left hip), collar bone, and spine.
This pose can help you cultivate strength and improve stability, and aid you in finding a correct balance while embodying opposites.
You will need to engage both your feet and hands during this posture to activate your entire body.