Easy and practical alignment cues for Parshva Konasana (Side Angle Pose) by Ihana Yoga Founder Jenni Morrison-Jack
As most poses, this seemingly easy and basic pose can be practised in many ways, including using several transitions into the pose. Variety adds richness and depth to the physical practice and you might even find yourself using several techniques or methods in one practice. Let’s look at Parshva Konasana (Side Angle Pose) in the light of hip opening / front leg loading vs. spinal mobility/lateral stretch. As always, you can use the same pose for different reasons, and one variation might suit the individual better than the other.
Parshva Konasana (focusing on the lateral pelvic tilt)
A lot of instructional yoga books show a fairly straight line from the back foot to the top hand in Parshva Konasana, with an alignment cue “one long line from the foot to the hand”. This requires a lot of weight bearing on the front leg that is in very strong external rotation, abduction and flexion. You might find that most of your awareness is naturally drawn to this area, as that’s where most bodily sensations are felt in this variation. The challenge of this method is to ‘split the mat’ and attempt to defy gravity by maintaining the legs and torso engaged. If not sure whether you’re doing it, the best way is to keep the hand hovering midair, rather than resting it on the front thigh, block or floor. The use of support is more than fine, but instead of dumping the body weight onto the hand, it needs to work as an opportunity to create resistance and pushing force. Press the hand down strongly to help you lift up and out of any potential hanging in the front hip. Speaking of which, in case you have any issues with your hip, this variation might not suit you as well as the next one. Key alignment cue: “Side bend from the pelvis, not the spine”
Parshva Konasana (focusing on the lateral flexion of the spine)
The other way to practise the same pose highlights the lateral flexion of the spine, rather than the lateral tilt of the pelvis. Now you can start in Warrior II and maintain the pelvis as upright as you can for as long as you can by squeezing the buttocks. Bend the spine sideways towards the front leg, and only once the spine doesn’t flex laterally any further, allow the pelvis to continue tilting laterally. You might feel that you’re still able to tilt your pelvis as much as in the first variation, but because you initiated the movement from the spine, you moved the spine more. This will result in a sidebent shape of the pose, so that the more you’re able to bend, the more the top hand will point towards the ground ie. no longer forming a straight line, but a semi circle instead. This in turn allows a stretch of the sidebody, that doesn’t happen in the straight line version. If you’re working to get more chest opening to improve posture or deepen your backbends, this version mobilises the thoracic spine more. Key alignment cue: “Side bend fully from the spine, only then from the pelvis”
Love & light,
Jenni Morrison-Jack, Ihana Yoga