A standing pose that has strengthening as well as flexibility benefits is side angle pose. This asana strengthens and stretches the legs, knees and ankles. This pose also stretches the groin, spine, waist, chest, lungs and shoulders. Another added benefit is the stimulation of the abdominal organs and an increase in stamina. The therapeutic applications that side angle offers are relief of: constipation, infertility, low back ache, osteoporosis, sciatica and menstrual discomfort. Side angle pose can be modified to fit your strength and flexibility level so it is a pose that is accessible for most everyone.
Begin by standing on your mat with feet wing span apart (the distance between your wrists with arms extended shoulder height). Start with your right foot towards the front of the mat aligning the heel with the arch of the left (back) foot. Your left toes should be pointing towards the side of the mat to open the hip.
Start to bend the right knee and work towards bringing it directly over the ankle. Keep the knee pointing toward the second or middle toe. Make sure the knee doesn’t go beyond the ankle. Ideally the goal is to get the thigh parallel to the floor. If the leg is not strong enough, lessen the bend in the knee. Sink the hip towards the earth and place the right forearm on the thigh. Be mindful of lifting the back inside ankle joint and pressing weight to the outside edge of the foot. Avoid leaning into the thigh and sinking in the shoulder. The waist should be active and lifting away from the floor. Lift the left arm towards the sky. If you have limited mobility in the shoulder, keep the arm raised at 12:00. If the shoulder permits, take the arm towards the right ear and stretch from the hip all the way to the fingers; stretching the whole side of the waist. Roll the shoulder back and roll the left side of the rib cage and hip towards the sky. Have the feeling of sinking towards the earth but lifting towards the sky at the same time to create dynamic tension. Take deep expansive breaths through the chest.
To deepen the pose:
Once you can keep your thigh parallel to the floor and keep the alignment and breath flowing as well as feeling a sense of ease in the pose, it’s time to move deeper.
Beginning students tend to want to move deeper before they have the strength and flexibility to do so. Make sure you can already sink the leg and hip deep in the pose before progressing further. You can place a block to the inside of the front foot to whatever height is appropriate and bring the hand closer to the ground. Use your arm to gently press the knee open. The deepest position is when your palm is flat to the floor with out lifting the hip out of the pose. Feel the alignment of a straight line from your foot to your fingertips. The left side of your body is stretching while the right side of your body is strengthening. Hold this pose up to 10 breaths and then return to standing.
Side angle can bring a sense of balance to the body by taping into your inner strength while creating space at the same time. Make sure to do the pose on both sides to insure that balance.