Parivrtta Parsvakonasana is one of the standing postures in the traditional Ashtanga Yoga sequence. Variations of this pose, (i.e., palms together at the heart centre) are often used in Power Yoga, but the classical version, with the back foot planted, lower hand pressing into the mat, and upper arm extending along the cheek, is an advanced spinal twist that should be entered into slowly. Many experienced students and teachers consider it to be the most difficult of the classical standing asanas.
As with all postures that twist and rotate the spine, Revolved Side Angle has a wringing effect on the internal organs. Twisting the torso squeezes the kidneys and liver, which is emphasized by pressing the side torso against the front leg. This squeezing effect wrings the abdominal organs of toxins and, once released, enables fresh blood to rush back into those same organs, bathing the cells with nutrients. The posture also benefits from core strengthening, as the internal obliques on the side closer to the ceiling contract and the external obliques on the lower side contract.
Getting into the Pose
There are several ways to enter Revolved Side Angle Pose, but I’ve found this to be the simplest, most efficient, and most easily modified as needed.
1. From Down Dog, step forward into High Lunge.
2. Bring your hands to the heart centre, and soften the back knee slightly as you move into a Low Lunge Twist (also known as Prayer Twist). This stage builds strength in the legs and flexibility in the upper back and shoulders while honing balance and coordination.
3. Keeping the back heel up, bring your lower hand to the floor and extend your upper arm to the sky (first), and then along the plane of your cheek.
4. With caution, attempt to lower your back heel to the mat.
There is plenty of work to be done (and pleasure to be gained!) at each of these four stages. Listen to your body as you work steadily into deeper variations with practice and time.
Remember to Breathe!
The complexity of this posture, demanding notable strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination all at one time, can make breathing feel like an option—but it’s not! Ujjayi breath calms the nervous system and focuses the mind, which aids in concentration.
Modify: Keep your back heel off the mat in a lunge type of position to protect the knee until sufficient spinal flexibility has been obtained.
Modify: If your shoulders are tight or spinal rotators are limited, focus on increasing the depth of stretch using Anjali Mudra, with palms together and elbow pressing against the outer knee. Work on deepening the rotation through your spine in this lunge position.