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Benefits of Parsvottanasana and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

By Dr. Ankit Sankhe +2 more

Introduction: 

Yoga is an age-old practice known to unify your mind and body and offers benefits beyond the mat. This means yoga not only has health benefits but also helps in transformation by promoting connection with yourself, the world outside and the higher power. Classical yoga typically includes the practice of asanas (postures), pranayamas (breathing techniques) and dhyana (meditation techniques). Different Yogasanas range from gentle practices to physically demanding ones. Parsvottanasana, or the pyramid pose, was first mentioned in Yoga Makraranda, published in 1935. In this section, we will oversee one such asana, Parsvottanasana and its health benefits that will force you to take time out from your busy schedule to practise this asana.1 

What is Parsvottanasana? 

Parsvottanasana is a standing asana involving an intense side stretch, it is a part of Hatha yoga (a branch of yoga that tries to channel or preserve energy). The name is derived from Sanskrit words, “Parsva”, meaning side or flank, and “Uttana”, where ‘ut’ means intense, ‘tan’ means to stretch or extend and “asana”, which means yoga or posture. Thus, this pose or asana involves an intense side stretch. It is called pyramid pose in English. The preparatory pose of Parsvottanasana is Uttanasana, and follow up pose is Sirasana.2 

parsvottanasana

How to do it? 

Parsvottanasana must be done correctly for maximum health benefits. Practising this asana on an empty stomach or at least four hours after any meal is advised. It is best to practise Parsvottanasana early in the morning as the body is fresh and active during this time. One may perform Parsvottanasana in the following manner: 

  • First, stand in Tadasana; stand straight with your feet firm and aligned at shoulder level. Arms are in a relaxed position on either side. 
  • Next, take a deep breath and join both palms in the namaskar position behind the back. Stretch your shoulders slightly back. Breathe out and, with a deep breath, jump and spread your legs a few feets apart; now, your right leg will be a few feet in front of your left leg. 
  • Inhale and bend your head and upper body forward and try to touch your nose on the knee of your right leg. Stay in this position for 20-30 seconds, and bring your head slowly back by lifting your upper body back. Breathe out and relax. 
  • Repeat this pose by bringing your left leg forward. 

Note- If you find it challenging to hold your hands in the Namaste position behind your back. You can do this asana by keeping your hands behind your back.2 

Researchers have found that Parsvottanasana may help dancers to have better stability and mobility of the hands and legs. Parsvottanasana is believed to relieve the joints’ stiffness and hence enhance the limbs’ mobility.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Do you know? 

  • In Indian mythology, it is believed that Parsvottanasana depicts a pyramid. A pyramid is firm and rigid and has a robust foundation and strength. The practice of this asana helps us attain firmness and rigidity in our decisions and also strengthens us. 
  • The practice of Parsvottanasana tells about an individual’s approach towards life. If you find balancing difficult while practising Parsvottanasana, it indicates you have a weak foundation, a feeling of ungroundedness. 
  • The practice of this asana may help you move from the mats into your lives with a sense of ease and confidence. 

Benefits of Parsvottanasana:  

Keeping the origin and history in mind, let us now discuss some benefits of Parsvottanasana, which will make this asana worth trying. Enlisted below are a few health benefits of Parsvottanasana. 

Benefit of Parsvottanasana in obesity 

It is now evident that a sedentary lifestyle and obesity usually coexist; being inactive for long periods can impair the ability of the body to break down fats resulting in their accumulation. Accumulation of fat, increased body weight and hip-waist circumference, as seen in obesity, can increase the risk of other diseases. Grabara et al. conducted a study in 2015 to assess the effect of different yoga interventions on obesity. The yoga intervention included asanas like Parsvottanasana and it was found that its practice reduced the Body-Mass Index, abbreviated as BMI (a measure of body weight based on height) and body weight. Therefore, yoga asanas like Parsvottanasana may positively impact obesity. However, it is recommended not to consider this asana as an alternative to modern medicine. It is recommended to consult a doctor for proper management of obesity. Additionally, it is best to practice this asana under the supervision of a qualified trainer.3 

Benefit of Parsvottanasana on physical fitness 

Studies have supported that the practice of yoga may help enhance physical fitness (muscular flexibility, fitness and cardiorespiratory fitness). A study by Lau et al. in 2015 stated that Parsvottanasana practice might help in improving physical fitness. This effect is attributed to the stretching of the upper body and abdominal muscles. Thus, the practice of Parsvottanasana positively impacts physical fitness and may improve your ability to perform daily activities and occupations. It is advised not to consider this asana as an alternative to modern medicine. Kindly consult your doctor for proper treatment of any health issue. It is best to perform Parsvottanasana under the supervision of a qualified trainer.4 

Benefit of Parsvottanasana on mental health 

Mental health is essential, and we should prioritize it; although serious, this issue is often ignored. The practice of yoga asanas may help improve mental health. Csala et al. conducted a study in 2022 to assess the effect of yogasanas like Parsvottanasana on health. A daily practice of yoga asanas like Parsvottanasana may positively impact mental health. Despite the benefits, you should not rely on this asana alone and consult your doctor for the proper treatment. Also, it is advised to practise this asana under the guidance of a qualified trainer.5 

Benefit of Parsvottanasana on blood pressure  

It is now evident from studies that a good diet and exercise may have a favourable effect on blood pressure. Different yoga asanas and pranayamas have been shown to lower blood pressure. Sieverdes et al. 2014 conducted a study to assess the effect of hatha yoga interventions on human health. It was concluded that the daily practice of hatha yoga asanas, which include Parsvottanasana, might help reduce high blood pressure. Thus, the practice of this asana may positively impact blood pressure. As this benefit has yet to be proven in any study, Parsvottanasana should not be considered an alternative to modern medicine. It is best to consult your doctor for the proper treatment of any blood pressure abnormality and not rely on this asana alone. Additionally, the practitioner should perform this asana under the supervision of a qualified trainer.6 

Benefit of Parsvottanasana on joint and muscle stiffness 

Literature studies have found that a regular practice of yoga asanas may have a beneficial effect on different muscles of the body. B.K. Iyengar, in his book, mentioned that the practice of Parsvottanasana may help relieve stiffness in wrists, back and hip muscles; this may improve the movements of these muscles. This indicates that the practice of this asana may help alleviate joint and muscle stiffness and may have the potential to manage conditions like arthritis. However, studies have yet to be conducted to assess these benefits, so we need more studies to ascertain these claims. It is advised to consult your doctor for proper treatment of muscle and joint stiffness, and do not consider this asana as a remedy. Also, the practice of this asana should be strictly done under the guidance of a qualified trainer.2 

Other benefits of Parsvottanasana: 

  • In Parsvottanasana, when you rest your head on your knees, this contracts abdominal muscles and helps in toning them.2 
  • The practice of Parsvottanasana may help improve breathing.2 

Note- The benefits mentioned above of Parsvottanasana are studied in a limited human population. To ascertain these claims in humans, more studies are required. 

Although the practice of Yoga may help in the development of the mind and body, Yoga should not be considered an alternative to modern medicine. It is advised not to rely on Yoga alone to treat any condition. Kindly consult a qualified doctor for proper treatment. Additionally, any asana practice should be done under the supervision of a qualified trainer. 

Researchers have found that Parsvottanasana may aid in digestion. Parsvottanasana is believed to strengthen the abdominal muscles and stimulate the abdominal organs which may enhance digestion.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Also Read: Sciatica Stretches: Research-Based Guide for Pain Relief

Risks of Parsvottanasana: 

Conditions, where Parsvottanasana should be performed with caution, are:  

  • As Parsvottanasana is an intense side stretch and is all about balance, caution must be taken if you find balancing asanas challenging. In this situation, you may seek the support of a wall. 

Conditions where Parsvottanasana is contraindicated, include:  

  • There is no data regarding the safety of this asana in pregnancy, children and the elderly. It is always advised to consult a qualified trainer if you want to adopt this yoga practice into your routine. 
  • In general, you should refrain from the practice of yoga asanas if you have any injuries, sciatica, surgeries, dizziness, etc. 

Also Read: Why Does Stretching Feel Good? Exploring the Science Behind It

Conclusion

Parsvottanasana is a standing asana involving an intense side stretch. The name is derived from Sanskrit words, “Parsva”, meaning side or flank; “Uttana”(where ut means intense, tan means to stretch or extend) and “asana”, meaning yoga or posture. Thus, this pose or asana involves an intense side stretch. The preparatory pose of Parsvottanasana is Uttanasana, and the follow-up pose is Sirasana. The practice of this asana may positively impact mental health, obesity, physical fitness and blood pressure. It may also help reduce back stiffness, wrists, hips, etc. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What is Parsvottanasana? 

Parsvottanasana is a standing asana involving an intense side stretch. The name is derived from Sanskrit words, “Parsva”, meaning side or flank and “uttana”(where ‘ut’ means intense, ‘tan’ means to stretch or extend). Thus, this pose or asana involves an intense side stretch.1

2) Can the practice of Parsvottanasana benefit weight loss? 

Yes, the practice of Parsvottanasana may aid weight loss. A study by Grabara et al. in 2015 showed that the practice of the Parsvottanasana pose resulted in a reduction in BMI and body weight.2 

3) How to do Parsvottanasana? 

One may perform Parsvottanasana in the following manner. First, stand straight in Tadasana with your feet firm and aligned at shoulder level. Arms are in a relaxed position on either side. Next, take a deep breath and join both palms in the namaskar position behind the back. Stretch your shoulders slightly back. Breathe out, and next, with a deep breath, jump and spread your legs a few feets apart; now, your right leg will be a few feets in front of your left leg. Inhale and bend your head and upper body forward and try to touch your nose on the knee of your right leg. Stay in this position for 20-30 seconds, and bring your head slowly back by lifting your upper body back. Breathe out and relax.

4) For how long should you stay in Parsvottanasana? 

The pose can be maintained for 20-30 seconds.3 

5) What are the preparatory and follow-up poses of Parsvottanasana? 

The preparatory pose of Parsvottanasana is Uttanasana and the follow-up pose is Sirasana. 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes. 

References: 

  1. Yoga: What you need to know, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know (Accessed: February 1, 2023). 
  1. Iyengar, B. K. (1966). Light on Yoga. New York: Schocken Book. Parsvottanasana, 78-84. Available at: https://archive.org/details/light-on-yoga-b.-k.-s.-iyengar/page/77/mode/2up?q=parsvottanasana&view=theater 
  1. Grabara, Małgorzata, and Janusz Szopa. “Effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in women over 50 years old.” Journal of physical therapy science vol. 27,2 (2015): 361-5. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.361. available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339138/ 
  1. Lau, Caren et al. “Effects of a 12-Week Hatha Yoga Intervention on Cardiorespiratory Endurance, Muscular Strength and Endurance, and Flexibility in Hong Kong Chinese Adults: A Controlled Clinical Trial.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 958727. doi:10.1155/2015/958727. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26167196/ 
  1. Csala et al. Physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits of hatha yoga practise, Budapest, 2021 DOI: 10.15476/ELTE.2021.128. Available at: https://www.ppk.elte.hu/dstore/document/807/Csala_Barbara_disszertacio.pdf 
  1. Sieverdes et al. “Effects of Hatha yoga on blood pressure, salivary α-amylase, and cortisol function among normotensive and prehypertensive youth.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 20,4 (2014): 241-50. doi:10.108.9/acm.2013.0139. available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3994913/ 

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