This pose is very familiar looking even for the non-yogi. Most people who have worked out, whether through cardio or lifting weights, have likely done or seen this move.
How to Extended Side Angle
Start with your feet about three to four feet apart. Anchor your heel and turn your left foot in about 45 degrees, as long as it can remain flat and plugged in to the floor. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Feel the external rotation out of your right thigh. Tuck your hips under slightly so as not to put unnecessary pressure on your low back.
Slowly bend your right knee to form a perfect 90-degree angle. Be very resistant, keeping your knee tracking directly over your right foot to assure the knee's safety. Feel the connection between both feet. Lift your torso. Be long and extended. Bring your arms up shoulder height palms facing down, looking much like a Warrior Two pose.
Take a deep breath in and on your exhale, bring your right hand to the floor on the inside of your right foot. If this is too hard then bring the right elbow to rest gently on your right thigh, and if the original direction is too easy, bring your right hand to the floor on the outside of your right foot. The key to this pose is to not collapse your right side body while positioning yourself. Try to think that your right side body is just as long as the left side body.
Next, take your left arm, lengthen and bring it up over your head. The angle of the left arm should be a continuation of the angle you have created with your extended left leg in one nice, long line.
Hold and breathe. Extend as the name indicates, then switch and do it on the other side.
Benefits of Extended Side Angle Pose
The role of extended side angle is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Strengthen and stretch the legs, knees, and ankles
- Stretch the groins, spine, waist, chest, lungs and shoulders
- Stimulate abdominal organs
- Increase stamina
- Increase breath capacity
- Build stability in the legs
For the lay person or the yogi, this pose is a great pose to build critical strength in the legs. This is important to build your practice into more challenging holds. It is a great transition pose when you are planning a flowing vinyasa practice. Extended side angle helps the practitioner build enormous strength in the spine. We can all use a stronger more stable spine to avoid slipped discs, herniations and chronic pain. All these ailments can be experienced by repetitive movements during a typical day that includes driving, computer work, walking your dog and poor posture. Feel the extension and increased feeling of height this pose can give you and breathe a sigh of relief, literally.
For the athlete, this pose, in addition to the benefits mentioned above, helps open the groin and inner thigh. Not only will it elongate the groin, which is often the source of injury for athletes, but it keeps the hips and thighs open and supple. This creates an environment where less stress and strain is placed on the knees and body. Athletes always ask me how to relieve pressure to the vulnerable knee joint. If the inner thigh is taut and pulling causes the placement of the foot to change, possibly pronate or collapse inward, this subsequently puts pressure on the medial knee. By practicing this pose, athletes that participate in cardio sports such as soccer and basketball, keep their ribcage open to allow for greater lung capacity. When you can breathe efficiently, you are able to stay on the field longer, decrease anxiety and be successful.
Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:
- Recent spinal surgery
- Recent ankle surgery
- Recent knee surgery
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.