Seated Side Bend Pose (Parsva Sukhasana)

Seated Side Stretch Pose, Parsva Sukhasana, (PA-AAr-svA SOOkas-ana)

sukha (easy or pleasant) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Seated Side Body Stretch, Seated Side Stretch

Pose Type: Twisting, Stretching, Seated, Restorative

Difficulty: Beginner

woman doing a seated side bend yoga pose

Give your side body a generous stretch and open your chest in Seated Side Stretch

seated side Bend Pose Fundamentals

Activate your side body and improve the mobility of your spine with this restorative pose. Seated Side Bend Stretch is done in an Easy Pose seat, so it may help you work on opening your hips. However, its main benefit is the work done on the upper body.

In yoga and other activities, we often move the spinal column forward and backward. Twists are also quite common. Meanwhile, our spine can also move sideways, but we tend to forget this motion or not practice it as much as we should. However, it is important to also add this movement to your practice, to keep your side muscles toned and elongated. The Seated Side Bend Stretch is one of the easiest ways you can do that, and it’s accessible to all practitioners, regardless of their flexibility or experience. 

Side bends also target the intercostal muscles, the group of muscles that sit between the ribs. Often, our intercostal muscles are stiff and short, because we spend a lot of time slouching. Expanding these muscles can help strengthen your posture, and release tension from the neck and shoulders. 

Tight intercostal muscles may also decrease the range of motion in the ribs, which directly impacts your breathing. Lengthening them will also open your rib cage, helping to increase your breathing capacity. This may also ease any respiratory conditions such as asthma or colds, reduce stress, and make you feel calmer.

Yoga teachers also use this pose in sequences that aim to help free prana and allow energy to freely circulate in the body. 

The reason why this pose is so beneficial energetically is that it simultaneously grounds you by activating the lower chakras, and lifts that energy up by raising the chest and stimulating the heart chakra. In this manner, you can include it in any practice where you focus on transmuting root chakra energy and elevating it into your higher energy centers. 

In the Ayurvedic view, the Seated Side Bend Stretch affects all three doshas. It balances the variable and active energy of the Vata dosha by bringing a sense of grounding. It works similarly for Pitta dosha, calming this fiery energy, and bringing simplicity and bliss. Finally, it helps harmonize the slow and sometimes stagnant Kapha energy by opening the heart and freeing the breath, which releases congestion and lethargy in both the body and the mind. 

To enjoy all these benefits of Parsva Sukhasana, stay conscious of your breath and alignment, and strive to keep your spine erect. Use any variation or props that allow you to do that.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing seated side bend Pose

seated side Bend Pose Benefits

  • Strengthens the spine, releases tension from this area, and opens the space between the vertebrae. 
  • Strengthens the core muscles, particularly when you are consciously engaging the abdomen. 
  • Stretches the side torso muscles – obliques, intercostal, and serratus anterior, which are often underworked and tense. It also stretches the lats, hips, shoulders, and arms, particularly the triceps muscles. 
  • Since one side of the body is bent and the other is extended, this pose stimulates the organs in two ways. It both compresses them, boosting digestion and detoxification, and extends them, which discourages stagnation. 
  • By activating and lengthening the side core muscles which we often forget to target in our workouts, this pose may help to improve your awareness of your posture and improve your postural habit over time. 
  • Targets the lymph nodes in the armpit and the lymphatic organ, helping to detoxify the body and stimulate the movement and drainage of the lymphatic fluid
  • Releases tension in the ribs, improving the function of the lungs and improving blood and oxygen circulation in the body. 

How To Do seated side Bend Pose: Step-By-Step

video of a woman doing a seated side bend

How To Get There:

1. Begin sitting cross-legged with one foot in front of the other in Easy Pose or Sukhasana. Rest your hands next to your hips.

2. First, check your back. If you see you are rounding in the lower back (which is quite common for most of us), sit on the edge of a cushion.

3. Then keep your left hand on the floor, and reach up with your right arm. 

4. Bring the arm close to the side of your head to keep your head and arm in alignment and avoid too much strain on the neck. At the same time, bend your body to the left.

5. You can keep the left arm on the ground, or slide it along the right leg. If you are keeping it on the ground, you can choose to keep it long or to bend at the elbow and bring the forearm down on the floor.

6. Keeping your chest open and both sit bones on the ground, hold the pose for around 20 to 30 seconds.

7. Slowly release back into the initial position, then repeat the steps on the other side. 

Tips And Tricks:

  • Avoid twisting the spine by opening the chest and drawing the shoulder of the top arm back.
  • It’s best to practice this pose sitting on the edge of a cushion or a rolled blanket. This will make it much easier to keep your back straight.
  • Instead of going to the deepest variation right away, take it slow and in stages. Use your breath to guide you – On each inhale expand the chest, and with each exhalation lengthen and deepen the stretch more.

seated side Bend Pose Variation:

Seated Side Bend Stretch Variation: Variation with a strap

woman doing a Seated Side bend with strap

Practicing with a yoga strap may help you improve alignment in this pose, but also deepen the stretch in a safe way. It is perfect for those who feel stiff in the shoulders, which may make them collapse in the chest.  Practicing with a strap will help to open your chest and shoulders.

To practice with a strap, grab it with both hands and move both arms up and overhead. Then reach over to one side, and hold for around 5 to 10 breaths. You can also practice the pose in cycles, moving rhythmically from one side to another, but still, hold the end position at least for one breath If you are bending your arms when doing the side stretch, increase the distance between the hands and attempt again. 

Seated Side Bend Stretch Variation: Seated Side Bend On A Chair

This variation is ideal to perform during or after work if you’re working at a desk, to release tension in the spine. It is also a common restorative asana for those who are undergoing difficult medical treatment such as chemotherapy or are recovering from a surgery that may prevent them to sit in Sukhasana, such as hip surgery. It is also appropriate for elderly students and pregnant women. 

To do the pose, begin sitting on a firm chair. Any chair will do, it is only important you feel stable in it. Sit tall, keep your spine long and engage your core. Then bend at your waist to the right side of the body, as far as you can, while still keeping both hips evenly on the chair and your chest open. If you don’t have shoulder issues, you can also reach your left arm overhead and to the right side. Look in front or towards the left arm for a deeper stretch in the neck. You can also perform this variation on the edge of your bed.

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Collapsing in the torso. Sometimes, students will focus too much on extending the side body of the lifted arm, and they will collapse in their chest, or on the side that’s closer to the floor. Keep your chest elongated, even if that means you’ll slightly pull back from the pose. 

Lifting the hips. The hip on the side of the lifted arm will elevate if you go too deep in the pose. Make sure both hips are evenly managing your weight, and both sitting bones are glued to the ground. 

Injuries

This pose works deeply on both the upper and the lower body, so it’s better to avoid it with most serious injuries, especially those in the feet, ankles, knees, arms, and shoulders. It may also further aggravate your issue if you had recently had a knee or shoulder surgery, as well as if you are struggling with severe back, shoulder, and neck pain, and sciatica

Related Poses

Standing Side Bend Pose

Gate Pose

Head To Knee Forward Bend

Preparatory Poses:

Easy Pose

Cat-Cow Pose

Bound Angle Pose

Counter Poses:

Supine Spinal Twist Pose

Staff Pose

Seated Forward Fold Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

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