This is a common pose in lots of yoga classes. But what does “Parsvakonasana” mean ?
“Parsva” is Sanskrit for “Side”.
“Kon” is Sanskrit for “Angle”.
And “Asana” means “Posture” and in this case also “Stretch”.
So it is a Side Angle Stretch Posture, designed to get a lovely stretch right down one side of the body. And it builds strength in the legs, especially the thigh muscles.
As with every posture, you can look in your yoga book and see the final challenging version – the first picture here.
But you should also recognise your own level of flexibility and how far you are on your yoga journey, and where necessary, adjust the posture to your current ability. See the other less challenging versions in the second and third pictures.
The front foot is planted firmly on the mat at 90 degrees, the back foot turns inwards a little and you press firmly into the outside of that foot. This gives a firm foundation for the stretch to the upper body. For those who are very strong and flexible the front thigh may go as low as parallel to the floor. For many that will not be possible without losing the footing – in which case you raise the front hip higher making the gap between the feet shorter. This also makes the pose less challenging for the legs.
In the final version of the posture, the hand on the same side as the leading leg is flat to the floor and the upper body pulls up and away from the bent leg thigh. Again, that is too challenging for many people, so there are lots of alternatives: you can rest on the fingertips rather than having the hand flat; you can put hand on a block on the outside of the front foot; or you can rest the elbow on the knee. For most people, it is better to put the elbow on the knee, otherwise you end up simply resting the upper body on the thigh, which loses a key benefit of the pose of stretching the outside of the body.
Finally, the other arm stretches upwards in a diagonal shape along the same line as the back leg, and the palm of the hand turns round so that you can look at it – which broadens and makes the shoulders more comfortable.