As of June 21st, it is officially summer! This season radiates nurturing energy and promotes abundance in our lives. Fire, the associated element of summer, gives our personal practice an extra boost of energy to elevate our ability to practice yang-style poses.
This summer is a great time to try Funky Pyramid Pose, a variation of Intense Side Stretch or Parsvottanasana.
This pose requires the muscles of the legs, arms, and trunk of the body to all coordinate and activate, making Funky Pyramid Pose a full body workout. The hamstring muscles of the front leg are actively lengthened and stretched while the spine is passively lengthened.
The asymmetrical nature of this pose and compression of the body toward the front leg massages the internal organs which aids in digestion. Therefore, to align with the operation of the large intestine, it is best to practice this pose first on the right side then on the left side.
This is a challenging pose that helps keeps us humble on the mat. It takes practice and persistence to get deeper into yoga. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process!
As with any asana practice, it is best start with some ballistic stretching like a few Surya Namaskar flows, also known as Sun Salutations. Warming up stretches tight muscles to a more comfortable length for practicing new poses.
Specifically, for this practice, working on a wide-legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana I) and heel-to-butt stretch prepares the body for the necessary forward folding and leg lifting in Funky Pyramid pose.
Stretching and opening the shoulders and chest is also necessary to avoid a collapsed upper body and drooped shoulders in this variation of Intense Side Stretch. For individuals with tight shoulders, holding onto opposite elbows or wrists behind the back aids in opening the heart and chest.
For people with more mobility in the shoulders, bringing the hands to reverse prayer, also known as Anjali Mudra, stretches the wrists and opens the chest and heart. Practice Anjali Mudra behind the back when it is comfortable not painful, to avoid injuring the shoulders and wrists.
Practicing traditional Parsvottanasana helps the body strengthen necessary muscles as well as bring more comfort into the pose prior to playing around with the variation, Funky Pyramid.
Start in Wide-Legged Tadasana with hands behind the back. Shift the front foot at a 90-degree angle to the right and the back foot at a 75- to 80-degree angle to the right. For the summer variation, to keep the chest open, gently lift the sternum to allow the blazing fire at heart center to guide the torso forward while the hips reach back. This heart opening helps counter the natural rolling forward that happens in the modern day from constantly using computers and cellphones.
Gently move the trunk of the body to the right while maintaining squareness in the hips (right hip back, left hip forward, pelvic floor lifting). If the hamstrings are tight, bend the right knee to assist in the chest meeting the thigh.
In time, gently straighten the right leg and lift the kneecap toward the right hip by engaging the right thigh. Avoid hyperextending the leg and pushing the knee backward in space, better to have a soft bend in the joints like the knee.
Gently lift and square the feet back to Wide-Legged Tadasana and repeat on the left side.
Practicing Funky Pyramid
Practice all the steps in Parsvottanasana mentioned above, prior to lifting the chest back to the sky. In this variation, release the hands to the ground around the front leg. Walk the hands toward the back foot and turn the fingers to face backwards.
Gently bend the back leg and lift the back heel, taking weight out of the back leg and putting more weight in the hands.
Option to stretch the body one more time by shifting the hips all the way towards the back ankle and significantly bending and releasing the arms. Keep the inner thighs squeezing and the pelvic floor lifting throughout this practice.
Prep with the hips over the back ankle:
When ready, lift the hips back to center and gently play around with lifting the back foot off the earth. When you are first learning this pose, your supporting leg will naturally gravitate to perpendicular to the ground, meaning the hips will want shift over the standing leg rather than stay back.
Beginner Friendly Funky Pyramid: The hips gravitate more toward perpendicular to the ground, hips want to come forward and align with the supporting leg.
In time, you will build up more strength and balance to send those hips back to their original position in Intense Side Stretch and the back foot will hug to the butt.
Funky Pyramid with the hips reaching back and the front leg at a 45-degree angle:
The fire element of summer is associated with joy and laughter. So if you fall out of this pose and land on your bum, don’t forget to just exhale, smile, and laugh it off. We are all humans just trying to do our best! One day, this Funky Pyramid Pose will get a lot easier. Please share below any tips and ways that you practice variations of Parsvottanasana!