Extended side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), to me, is a foundational pose but receives little attention compared to its sister Warrior poses. Officially, not a warrior pose it has the markings of one (such as the bent knee like in warrior II) except for the side bending.
It was an enlightening pose this week, which follows the past two weeks' pattern of bending (forward and side). To be honest, I had a major release (physical and emotionally) with extended side angle pose this week and I don't totally get why. Was it from the hips? Apparently, releasing the hips can be an emotional experience but I have no reference or source to date. Is it the place of tension that rarely gets a break?
Especially as a pregnant women.
I really like this pose for my pregnant body. It focuses on single leg strength and opening of the side body among opening the hips.
One of the things I want to maintain is my leg strength. After sitting for many months nursing with my first child, my legs atrophied to a point where my pants were hanging off me. Muscle tone and strength were gone. So, continually working on leg strength now and once baby arrives is key for me.
Also, in the past couple weeks I've been stretched (read: my belly has popped). And the sensation it brings is very bizarre. It's like the pressure of the abdominal cavity is increasing and my skins elasticity is not ready for the stretch. So a dull ache. Extended side angle pose is fantastic for stretching the areas of my torso that have been under such pressure. *sigh*
Note: That's not me…yet. Nor have I ever seen something like this before!
Not only good for pregnant ladies like me, extended side angle pose is good for people who are diabetic, or have multiple sclerosis, or even those who are overweight or obese. In my research this week, I found many variations from a chair pose, to leaning on a table, to the forearm on the bent leg (this is what I did), to the hand place on a block, to the full pose of the hand flat on the floor. However, the hand placement can also be changed by having it either in front or behind the bent leg. This pose is for everyone!
And interesting, from an anatomy perspective, the diaphragm receives an asymmetrical stimulation during the pose. This occurs in the side of the body which is facing downward. Kaminoff and Matthews comment in their book, Yoga Anatomy that the "diaphragm is driven cranially [upward] by the force of gravity acting on the abdominal organs".
So the organs and anatomical features surrounding the diaphragm such as the heart and lungs above, the intestines, stomach, liver, kidneys below, the all around by the muscle fibers on the lumbar spine, the bottom edge of the ribcage and sternum will all receive some form of stimulation. This must be why some of the benefits of this pose are "stimulation of the transverse colon and the descending colon" which helps with constipation. But also assists with low back pain and sciatic.
Keeping strong and bending well,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.