Create Freedom in the Legs and Spine With This Creative Variation of Pyramid Pose

Parsvottanasana translates to “intense side stretch,” but you probably know it better as Pyramid Pose. This pose requires strength and mobility as a grounding standing posture and a deep forward bend.

With so many different actions happening within the body in this shape, it can be helpful to break it down bit by bit to hone in on the targeted muscle groups. Props and variations can be beneficial for achieving this. While this posture can be extra challenging if you have tight calves or hamstrings, this variation will help to alleviate some of that pull so that you can focus on lengthening your spine.

Warm Up Before You Begin Your Pyramid Pose Variations

1. Downward Facing Dog Pose at the Wall

How to practice a Downward Dog Pose variation as a prep pose for Pyramid Pose or Parsvottanasana.

Warm up your hamstrings with this variation of Downward Facing Dog Pose.

  1. Set up your mat against a wall with a short edge in contact with the wall.
  2. Place two blocks on their lowest height setting, touching the wall roughly shoulder-width apart.
  3. Come onto all fours in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana) with your hands just behind your blocks.
  4. Then, rest the heels of your hands on the front corner of the yoga blocks and press the blocks forward toward the wall. Spread the rest of your fingers wide across the width of the blocks.
  5. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. 
  6. Send your sit bones toward the sky and stretch your legs straight as much as possible. Prioritize lengthening your spine over straightening your legs.
  7. Pedal your legs out by bending one knee at a time as you straighten the opposite leg. Alternate between your legs for a few rounds.
  8. Return to your neutral Downward-Facing Dog Pose shape, pause, and hold for a few breaths as you lengthen your back body.

2. Isolate Movements: Pelvic Tilts Can Help

Learn how to isolate the movements of your pelvis with this simple exercise. When you move into Parsvottanasana, bear in mind that—typically—when you fold forward, you want to create a slight anterior tilt of the pelvis to avoid rounding the lumbar spine.

Tadasana or Mountain Pose is a foundational pose preparing for the practice of other poses.

  1. Stand in a neutral Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet roughly hips-distance apart. Place a slight bend in your knees to remove any pull from your hamstrings.
  2. As you inhale, tip your tailbone toward the back of your mat and extend and arch your lower back to anteriorly tilt your pelvis.
  3. Then, as you exhale, roll your tailbone toward the floor to tuck it underneath your pelvis. Round your lower back as you draw your pubic bone up toward your breastbone to tilt your pelvis posteriorly.
  4. Tilt your pelvis forward and back a few times like this and exaggerate the movements to feel the extremes. 
  5. After exploring, find your neutral position directly between these two extremes.

Try This Creative Pyramid Pose Variation to Create Freedom in Your Legs and Spine

Pyramid Pose Variations praciticed with yoga props.

  1. Place the short end of your mat at the wall so that the mat is perpendicular to the wall. Place your yoga wedge or rolled-up towel, blanket, or yoga mat at the back of your mat against the wall behind you and place two blocks on their highest height, setting about halfway down the mat and roughly shoulder-width apart.
  2. Stand between the wall and the blocks and step your left foot behind you. Rest your heel onto the prop at the back of your mat.
  3. Step your right foot forward just on the inside of the block on the right. Readjust as needed to have your legs be about the length of your leg apart from each other from front to back.
  4. Root your feet on the floor and actively scissor your legs toward each other.
  5. Activate your core and lift and lengthen your spine. Imagine lifting your ribcage up, away from your hips.
  6. Take your hands to your hips and create a slight anterior tilt in your pelvis as you hinge from your hips and fold your torso forward.
  7. Rest your fingertips on the blocks in front of you. (You may also wish to place a chair in front of you and rest your hands on the chair seat for a little extra height.)
  8. Maintain the activation in your legs and reach your breastbone away from your hips to elongate your spine in the fold.
  9. Either stay as you are or if you can maintain the activation in your legs and the length in your spine, walk your blocks and your hands forward away from the wall toward the top of your mat.
  10. Lengthen both sides of your waistline to create space in your side body as you stretch and reach forward.
  11. Hold for a few long, deep breaths before releasing and switching sides.


Video Practice: Experiment With Creative Pose Variations to Target Different Parts of Your Body in Different Ways

This unique variation of Pyramid Pose creates length in the lower body and hips, which helps develop a feeling of freedom and length in the spine.

By elevating your back heel, you can remove some of the calf stretches in this pose so that you can focus on the lengthening of the hamstrings. By lengthening the hamstrings, you can more easily anteriorly tilt the pelvis. And this anterior tilt will allow you to elongate your whole back body. 

This certainly isn’t the only way you should practice Pyramid Pose, but ita a charmingely variation to create freedom and length within the body. Try it and see if it changes your relationship with this pose and its many actions.

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit

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