Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

Pyramid Pose, Parsvottanasana, (paa-r-sh-vo-ttaa-naa-suh-nuh)

parsva (side) + uttana (stretched) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Intense Side Stretch Pose, Parsva Uttanasana

Pose Type: Inversion, Stretching, Balancing, Standing

Difficulty: Intermediate

a man wearing black yoga clothes doing pyramid pose with his hands in prayer behind his back

Stretch your hip muscles and hamstrings, and lengthen the spine in Pyramid Pose.

Pyramid Pose Fundamentals

This standing yoga pose combines balancing, forward bending and backward bending – all at the same time. It also works on both your strength and flexibility.

Pyramid pose looks simple, but it requires a lot of focus to maintain balance while in proper alignment. On the other hand, it also allows you to see your progress easily, which makes it very encouraging.

This pose is a great preparation for any advanced hamstring intensive asanas, such as splits. Depending on the way you decide to use your hands, it can also be a powerful back stretch.

On one hand – Pyramid gives you a sense of freedom and expansion in your upper body, but on the other, it has a strong emphasis on foundation and grounding, and allows you to improve your stability and balance. These opposite effects make this pose a worthy addition to your yoga routine, and the many possible modifications make it appropriate for all experience levels. 

Pyramid Pose Benefits

  • Stretches and strengthens the legs.
  • Stretches the spine, chest, hips, and shoulders.
  • Improves your sense of coordination and balance.
  • The forward bend turns it into an inversion, so it improves circulation to the brain, and may improve mental focus and clarity.
  • May help improve your postural habit.
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, so it may improve digestion/detoxification.
a gif of a man doing pyramid pose

How To Do Pyramid Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Place your hands on your hips and turn to the right, stepping your right foot back. Keep your feet about 3-4 feet distance apart. 

2. Looking over the right foot, align your feet so they are approximately in the same line. The front foot should face straight ahead, and keep your back foot between a 45 and 60-degree angle, depending on what feels best for you. 

3. Your hips should face forward and try to keep them aligned. It is possible the right hip went slightly in front of the left, you can use your hands to gently pull it back. Distribute your weight equally through both feet. 

4. Expand your arms to the sides, internally rotate them, and grab opposite elbows behind your back. Alternatively, you can also clasp them in a reverse prayer position. If that’s not comfortable, you can also release them to the floor, your shins, or blocks. 

5. Inhale, elongate your spine, and engage your legs. With an exhale, bend at the hips and fold forward over the front thigh, trying to keep your spine long, and your collar bones broad.

6. Gaze at your front foot to keep your neck long. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

7. To exit the pose, activate your legs and slowly elevate your torso. Place your hands on your hips and turn to the other side. Then repeat the same steps on the left leg. 

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing pyramid pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • Keep your hips squared and your spine long both while getting into and while holding the pose.
  • Instead of trying to touch your leg with your forehead, think about reaching your head forward, to keep your neck long. 
  • Keep in mind your legs are much closer together in Pyramid pose than in other standing positions, like the Triangle pose or Crescent Lunge. If you’re flowing to other standing poses, make sure to adapt the width of your stance. 
  • Your feet are your base – make sure you balance your weight through all four corners of both feet. 

Pyramid Pose Variation:

Pyramid Pose Variation: Palms On The Floor

a man wearing black yoga clothes doing pyramid pose with his hands on the floor

In the full expression of the pose, the arms are clasped behind the back in reverse prayer position. If this isn’t comfortable for you, you can also release them on the floor. If they can’t reach the floor, place two blocks on each side of your front foot to support your hands.

Pyramid Pose Variation: Half Pyramid Pose

This variation is ideal if you have a back injury, high blood pressure or are pregnant.

Repeat the same beginning steps as you would in standard Pyramid pose, but perform them facing a wall. Keep your front foot a couple of feet away from the wall. Then lower your torso down, so it’s parallel to the floor, and extend your arms forward, pressing your palms into a wall. Your arms and back should be fully extended in this variation.   

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

The stance is too narrow or too wide. Your stance should be more narrow than in Warrior I or Triangle pose, but it also shouldn’t be so narrow that it prevents you to keep your hips square or if it makes it too difficult to maintain balance. 

Hands on Shins. If you don’t feel comfortable grasping your hands behind your back, don’t place them on your shins. Rather, place them on the floor or blocks. 

Hips not stacked. Make sure your hips are parallel, before you fold forward.

Injuries

This pose is a deep lower body stretch, and it would be best to avoid it if you have any serious or recent hamstring, hip, or back injury. If you have a shoulder or wrist injury, release your arms on the floor instead of clasping them behind your back.

If you are pregnant, have glaucoma, heart disease or high blood pressure, the bend may be to deep, so do a gentler variation of the pose instead – or avoid it all together. 

Related Poses

Triangle Pose

Standing Forward Bend

Standing Splits

Preparatory Poses:

Standing Forward Bend

Downward Facing Dog

Bound-Angle Pose

High Lunge

Counter Poses:

Staff Pose

Seated Forward Bend

Revolved Triangle Pose

Upward Plank Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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