Pose of the Month: Parvritta Parsvokonasana

Yoga Pose of the MonthLife is a series of revolutions.  Usually that word has connotations of conflict, fighting our way through situation after situation, or even in struggling for liberation, but more it can also mean that every event and action is a series of cycles meant to bring us back to our source.  How we choose to deal with each revolution is a defining point in the difficulty or ease of our lives.  When we choose to muscle our way through these revolutions, we notice that we keep fighting the same fights over and over again.  It is possible that the circumstances or the players change from situation to situation, but the underlying experience remains the same.  What we learn from an asana like Parvritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) is that the more we surrender into the experience, the more effortless and accessible it becomes, and the more we are able to sit within our challenges to see that surrender is our greatest path to the source.

So many of our cultural references point us toward effort and the importance of winning.  “No pain, no gain,” “it’s a dog eat dog world,” “get ahead or you’ll get left behind” are all ways that we convince ourselves that success is proportionate to the amount of effort we give, and in no way related to patient acceptance of where we are at.  We are not often encouraged to let go into our foundation of strength and be open to whatever experience we are having in the present moment while we patiently wait for the next experience to present itself.  Muscling through an asana like Revolved Side-Angle pose can be a risky lesson in pushing ourselves into injury and perpetuating imbalance.  Just as in life, if we approach Parvritta Parsvakonasana with a sense of balanced strength and openness to the present experience, we may find a world of delightful unfolding waiting for us.

Parvritta Parsvakonasana requires a commitment of strength to maintain the basic structure of the pose.  The deep hip flexors (psoas, pectineus, and the anterior adductors) of the front leg work to create balance, stability, and core strength in the pose, as does the gluteus maximus on the back leg.  In order to find the most freedom and spinal rotation in this pose, you have to powerfully engage the supportive muscles of the legs and deep core.  Too often, practitioners will place their focus on the rotation of the spine at the shoulder girdle and allow the strength of the core and the support of the legs to go lax in order to achieve a greater amount of twist.  

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The torso is rotated by the superficial abdominal muscles that angle across the abdomen, muscles which are often overlooked in all deep twisting postures, and compensated by the less supportive muscles of the shoulder and upper arm.  These muscles are easily overworked (or excessively torqued) in order to achieve a look of deep twisting, but in actuality this is the location of refinement and grace.  When we can depend on the strength and stability of our core to maintain our balance and initiate the revolution, we do not have to overwork the deltoids, pectoralis major or biceps brachii to deeply lever the force of the twist, and instead we can open into the length and rotation that are an outgrowth of awareness and surrender.

Surrender doesn’t equate with weakness.  At moments in our life, surrender requires the most strength of all.  When we trust in the deep strength within us, and choose to act from this space, then the “fights,” or difficulties of life are enveloped with a deep sense of ease and space.  When an opportunity for revolution arises, a deep exploration of an asana like Parvritta Parsvakonasana can prepare us to root deeply into our strong, balanced essence, and open to the movement back to the source instead of away from the point of initiation.

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Approaching our revolutions in this way, with a heart of trust and acceptance, will lead us to growth and expansion.  It will cycle us back to the core of strength and stability within in a way that will allow us to stop the destructive, repetitive cycles of fighting our way through our experiences.  In yoga, all experiences are full of purpose and potential to turn toward the unwavering, constant source within each and every one of us.  Approach Parvritta Parsvakonasana in this way, and you may find that you no longer have to push or force your way into this twist, and can instead, open to it’s beauty and to the fluidity of the breath to guide you deeper into your source. 

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