The universe moves in many ways: straight lines, curves, circles, ellipses, and apparently chaotic patterns. But a pattern you probably encounter frequently and ubiquitously in yoga is the spiral. The word spiral comes from the Latin spira, meaning to coil, and coils are everywhere, says Washington, D.C. yoga teacher John Schumacher. In yoga, twists—including Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)—embody the essence of the spiral, Schumacher says.
Revolved Side Angle Pose is an intense twist. It challenges your flexibility, strength, sense of balance, and presence of mind. This pose is a powerful posture—but it’s not a cure all. “Twists have benefits ranging from increased flexibility to stimulated appetite,” according to Eric Grasser, MD, functional-medicine and Ayurvedic doctor in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You’ll often hear that yoga twists wring out toxins or detoxify the liver and other internal organs, but Grasser says, “There’s no scientific research that proves twisting asanas improve liver and lymphatic-system function.” However, breathing in your asana practice may help that process, he says.
This pose is part of the primary series of Ashtanga yoga but it’s found in many other classes.
Sanskrit: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (par-ee-VRT-tah parsh-vah-cone-AHS-anna)
Pose type: Twist
Targets: Upper body
Why we love it: “When I was first cued into Revolved Side Angle Pose in a class, I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ With tight hips and IT band issues, I couldn’t comprehend how my anatomy could stretch to extend in all those different ways in the same moment. That was years ago, and the posture’s intense lengthening and twisting still demand more of me than I sometimes think I can give. Yet that challenge teaches me about my tendency to hold my breath, which creates tension, and that, in turn, isn’t exactly helpful. A teacher once taught me to not only bring awareness to the breath but to think less about how I think the pose should look and more on how the pose should feel. In Revolved Side Angle, I simply look to create space, in the breath and in the body by extending and expanding in opposing directions—heel to head, hand to hand.” —Yoga Journal senior editor Renee Marie Schettler.
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Because it massages and stimulates your abdominal organs, Revolved Side Angle can improve digestion and relieve constipation. It can also help ease low backache and sciatica. This pose also strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, ankles, groin, spine, chest, and shoulders.
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
Try this pose with your back knee resting on a the mat or on a folded blanket for additional support if needed. Make sure that your front knee stays stacked over the front angle, and keep your hip points level and pointed forward.
Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)