Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Iyengar's difficulty rating: 8* out of 60*

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana is a common pose in the Denver vinyasa yoga scene. However, very few people practice or teach it with Iyengar’s form. A few significant differences:

  • Iyengar’s back heel is down, as in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose). Most practitioners keep that heel up.
  • Iyengar’s shoulder is wedged outside his knee. Most practitioners only bring their elbow outside their knee.
  • Iyengar’s arms and shoulders are stretched long. Most practitioners keep their hands in a prayer position or something similar.

On all three counts, Iyengar’s form is more physically demanding. In my opinion, that’s even more reason to strive for it. Few people achieve greatness or come to terms with their deepest struggles by choosing to hang back indefinitely. Practice taking up challenges so that you can do so with grace and fortitude when your life demands it.

Think about a lover. Once this person was an absolute stranger to you. And yet, simply by choosing to let him or her into your comfort zone, your world expanded and your life changed, perhaps forever.  Get better at that. Practice taking little risks. Stop skimming the surface. Put your freaking back heel down and work towards getting your shoulder outside your knee!

“Okay,” you’re saying. “I’m inspired to try the tougher version of this pose. But how do I get there?” Start with this simple principle:

Asana success stems from recognizing and controlling mobility versus stability of individual joints in the body.

In other words, are you able to fully mobilize your spine and simultaneously keep your shoulders and hips stable? Do you have the control to mobilize a joint, bring it to the edge of its range of motion, and then stabilize it there?

Whenever your body moves, that kinetic energy is expressed wherever it’s most efficient – in the nearby joints that move most easily. So by consciously activating some parts of your body and relaxing others, you can assume deeper shapes and control the way energy flows through you.

In Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, I recommend starting by mobilizing everything – your shoulders, hips, and spine – to get the deepest twist you can. You can keep your back knee down for balance at this stage. Then stabilize the shoulder wedged outside your thigh by pressing it and your thigh firmly together. The element of twist that was being held by your shoulder will be forced into your spine and hips.

Stabilize your hips by lifting your low belly and driving your back heel into the ground as if you were grinding out a lit cigarette. Attempt to do this without swinging your pelvis to the side at all; instead, make the movement all about external rotation of the back femur in its socket. Pull the hip of your front leg backwards, and lift the hip of your back leg upwards.

If you can do this while keeping your shoulders stable, all of the twist that was originally spread across the whole body will be concentrated in the spine. You’ll experience intense sensation and your capacity will increase rapidly.

What helps you go deeper in your twists? Leave a comment below!

How to improve your Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose):

  • Learn to externally rotate your back leg without moving your hips by practicing postures like Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid Pose) and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose)
  • Deepen spinal rotation while stabilizing hips in postures like Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
  • Practice working your whole shoulder outside your thigh with bound twisting postures like Ardha Matsyendrasana I (Half Lord of the Fishes 1 Pose) and Marichyasana III (Sage Marichi 3 Pose)
  • Create the top half of this pose in the chest and shoulder with postures like Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) prepares you for:

  • Bound twisting postures including Ardha Matsyendrasana I (Half Lord of the Fishes 1 Pose), Marichyasana III (Sage Marichi 3 Pose), and Pasasana (Noose or Knot Pose)
  • Twisting arm balances like Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (One Leg Sage Koundinya 1 or Scissors Pose), Astavakrasana (Sage Astavakra or Broken in Eight Places Pose), and Parsva Kukkutasana (Side Rooster Pose)
  • Twists with arms in the overhead plane like Parivrtta Paschimottanasana (Revolved Seated Forward Fold or Revolved Intense West Stretch)