Parsvottanasana is a deep hamstring stretch strongly aided by gravity and the positioning of the hips (it can actually be much deeper than uttanasana as staggering of the legs tends to bring more of the bend into the hips instead of the waist). Traditionally in the pose the hands are brought together behind the back in Anjali Mudra (palms pressed together) though I also like to fold forward with the arms at the hips to keep awareness on what’s happening with the pelvis as you fold. We’ll take the second variation here.
From Tadasana, step back with the left foot taking a relatively short stance (somewhere around 3 feet give or take). The right toes should be pointed straight forward and the left foot should be angled forward 45 to 60 degrees. Keep the hips pointed forward to the front of the mat and ground through the outer left foot. The right knee should point straight forward and the quads should be engaged to keep the kneecaps stable. Squeeze the outer thighs lightly together toward the center line.
On an inhale, lift the heart. As you exhale, fold from the hips, reaching the belly button forward over the center of the mat. Pull the right inner groin up into the hips and press into the ball of the right foot. At this point, if the hands are at the waist, you can release them to either side of the right foot or to a pair of blocks on either side of the leg.
You want the hips to be both square to the front of the mat as well as at the same height. Bringing more weight into either foot lifts the hip on that side so bring enough weight into the back foot to keep the hips level. Being level and even can be a difficult thing to feel in the body. It can help to have somebody take a look at your hips here and make adjustments until you develop the sense for what being even feels like. When evening out the hips, some people will feel a stretch in the lateral rotators of the back hip. This is OK as long as it doesn’t interfere with keeping the hips even. Turning the toes of the left foot a little more to the side should release some of that tension (only if needed), though make sure that the knee and the foot point in the same direction. Also check in with the right foot and make sure you have as much weight on the inner foot as the outer.
Breath deeply into the hamstrings and stay for as long as you like. When you are done, switch sides, staying on the second side for as long as you did on the first.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you or see you at one of my classes!