Quick Relief for an Achy Back.

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Yoga Practice Tips | 0 comments

Quick Relief for an Achy Back.

Parsvottanasana: Extended sideways pose

When you find yourself feeling sore after hours of sitting or even hours of walking, this pose will help you to extend you spine, lengthen your hamstrings, and restore your energy in a matter of minutes.  Classically this post falls into two categories—standing poses and forward bending poses. However it’s also easily adapted to assist students who have back concerns. Begin with Version A especially if you suffer with back pain. Master that version then move on to Version B when you no longer have any back pain. Version A is safe and helpful even for those students who have a herniated disc.

Version A

  1. Place your right foot at the wall, with the toes forming a 45-degree angle, and step your left foot back one leg IMG_2511length, with the heel turned in slightly.
  1. Walk your hands up the wall and position them as if you were doing downward facing dog pose.
  1. Route the heels of both feet into the floor in order to lift up your kneecaps and thighs.
  1. Press your top thighs and inner groins back as your breastbone moves toward the wall.
  1. Keeping the outer rear heel of the back leg down, bring that hip forward until both hips face the wall.*

6.  Wrap the outer armpits toward your face to support your shoulders.

  1. Draw from the top of the calves up to your buttocks and sharpen your sitting bones to stretch your hamstrings.
  1. On an inhale, reach your fingers up the wall to extend your side body and spine.**
  1. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths, and then do the pose with the left foot at the wall.


Practicing the pose in this way will create length and space in the spine to decompress the disc spaces, maintain and enhance the natural curve of the low back, and lengthen the hamstring muscles to allow for greater freedom of movement.

* Squaring the hips in this pose is the singular most important action for protecting a sensitive lower back.

** Extending the side body and arms to lengthen the spine is the second most important action for finding back pain relief.

Version B

  1. Place your right outer rear heel against the wall so the foot turns out 10 to 15 degrees.IMG_2515
  2. Take a full stride forward with your left leg, and square your hips the way you did in step 5 above.
  3. As in the previous version, press both heels down and pull up your kneecaps and thighs.
  4. Hinge at your hips, moving your inner groin back as you reach your chest forward.
  5. Keeping your back flat, place your hands on two blocks or other prop.***
  6. Extend the inside of the front foot forward and the inner rear heel back as you lift your sitting bones to further extend your legs. Observe the release that comes into your spine.
  7. Keep your neck in a neutral position extending your crown forward and your tail back.
  8. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths, and repeat with the left foot at the wall.

***If your hamstrings are very short you’ll need to match the prop to that length. Place your hands on a chair seat or even the chair back in order to maintain extension in your spine. Alternately you could return to version A.

If your low back is stable and pain free, you can practice full Parsvottanasana (not shown in this article). In the full pose, you finish by releasing and rounding the spine forward, allowing your head to move toward your knee.

Presented by Lillah Schwartz

Lillah, one of the senior teachers at One Center Yoga, is offering two yoga weekends for healing our backs in August and September. Click here for details.

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