Pyramid Pose

Utthita Parsvottanasana

"No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results from one own’s efforts." - T. Krishnamacharya

Pyramid Pose

HOW TO PRACTICE Pyramid Pose IN YOGA (Utthita Parsvottanasana)

Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Pyramid Pose


Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

Pyramid Pose (Sanskrit name: Parsvottanasana) is a fairly challenging side stretching yoga pose that requires strength, stability, presence, and patience to perform. 

Also referred to as Intense Side Stretch Pose, Parsvottanasana is all about commitment in the legs—creating a solid foundation and strong container from which to release and expand.

The yoga pose is also a fairly intense hamstring stretch, and should be approached mindfully and methodically, using the support of a wall, a chair or blocks. It’s important to prepare the body before attempting this asana. 

The yoga posture is traditionally done with the hands in prayer behind the back (called Reverse Namaskar), which opens the chest and shoulders. This version requires a great deal of mobility in the shoulder girdle, including free and fluid movement of the shoulder blades on the ribcage. Because many yoga practitioners will find themselves unable to bring their hands together behind their back, yoga classes often teach the version of Parsvottanasana pictured here, with the hands on the floor for support. Both variations are useful and valid expressions of the form.

Practice Tip: You may find it difficult to balance in Parsvottanasana, partially due to the narrow base of support and the inverted position of the spine and head. The key is strength and stability before flexibility. In other words, don’t compromise your balance to get deeper into the forward fold. The stronger and more stable your foundation is, the more length and freedom you can experience in Parsvottanasana.

Benefits of Pyramid Pose

Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

When done properly, the benefits of Parsvottanasana include lengthening and strengthening the spine and hamstrings, while also strengthening the muscles of the legs, ankles, and arches of the feet. With the glutes and outer hip muscles working hard to maintain balance, this yoga pose will help create pelvic stability and improve standing balance.

Intense Side Stretch also stimulates digestive organs while both energizing the body and calming the mind (as forward folds tend to do). Balance yoga postures require focus and single-pointed attention in order to remain stable. With the addition of asymmetry in the stance, Parsvottanasana can have a nicely clarifying effect on the mind.

Basic Pyramid Pose

Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana) with prayer hands behind back

  1. Begin standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the front of your yoga mat with your hands on your hips. Step your left foot back about three-and-a-half to four feet. Spin your left heel in and down to the mat, so that your left foot points forward, but is angled slightly outward at about 45 to 60 degrees.
  2. With both feet flat on your mat, hug your legs toward one another, as if you were squeezing a block between your inner thighs. Inhale and actively lengthen your spine. Exhale and begin to hinge at your hips, extending your torso long over your front leg.
  3. Stop when your torso becomes parallel with the floor, or at the point when your lower spine begins to round. You can check this by placing the fingers of one hand on your lumbar spine. If your vertebrae are poking out, your lower spine is rounding. Lift your torso up until you can feel the lumbar spine dipping into your back.
  4. Strongly press both feet into the yoga mat, drawing your right hip back so your leg lengthens. Take care not to let your right hip swing out to the right side.
  5. With your spine extended, release both hands to the floor (or onto blocks) on either side of your right foot. If you can’t reach blocks here, you can position yourself in front of a wall and press your hands into the wall to help you lengthen your torso. Press all ten finger tips down and both thigh bones back as you lengthen the front of your torso, taking your heart forward.
  6. Pause here and breathe. If you have the flexibility, you can fold more deeply over your front leg, but keep your spine and the sides of your torso long. Hold for five rounds of breath.
  7. To release, press both feet down firmly into the yoga mat, put a slight bend in your front knee and bring your hands to your hips. Inhale and rise to stand with a flat back. Step your left foot forward and right foot back to repeat on the second side.

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