Parsvottanasana: Open Your Hamstrings and Fix Back Pain

ParsvottanasanaParsvottanasana is such a great pose for people with tight hamstrings and low back pain. First, if you’re unfamiliar with the name Parsvottanasana, just look at the picture. Folks, this is the standing hamstring stretch that you did in gym class. The difference between then and now is that we’re going to do it correctly to get the most benefit.

If you read my article on Tree Pose, you read about how to find oppositional forces while standing. We’re going to use that same principle here to help us lift our torso away from our hips. This lift is going to help us access our hamstrings for a better stretch.

It’s important to remember that in order to hinge forward, your pelvis moves. The pelvis is what lowers your upper body toward your legs. Instead, I sometimes see people keep their pelvis fixed and drop their upper body forward. If you do this, your low back is going to take a hit.

Think about your pivot point of movement. If you’re moving from your spine, gravity will come down on your spine, and it won’t feel great. However, if you move from your pelvis, you will get a better opening of your hamstrings¬†and you’ll be able to use gravity to provide natural traction for your spine.

Anytime your head is lower than your pelvis, you have the opportunity to naturally traction your spine. This will only work, however, if you are hinging from your hips.

Don’t be afraid to use blocks. Blocks will help support you and keep you in proper alignment. Here is a link to Amazon. If you order these yoga blocks from this link, I receive a small commission.

Keep these tips in mind as you practice Parsvottanasana. Do you feel a good hamstring stretch? Can you feel a gentle stretch in your spine? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. We will use Ujjayi breathing.
  2. Begin with your legs in Warrior 1 with your left leg forward. Make sure your blocks are nearby.
  3. Straighten your left leg so that both legs are straight now.
  4. Seal the outside edge of your right foot to the mat.
  5. Place your hands on your hips for a moment to check that your hips are square to the front of your mat.
  6. Press down through your feet to feel an energetic lift through your spine.
  7. Draw your abdominals to your spine.
  8. On an exhale, feel your pelvis rotate forward to help lower your spine. It is from your pelvis moving that your face comes closer to your leg.
  9. If comfortable, use blocks to help support you in this pose. Blocks should be placed on both sides of the front ankle.
  10. As you breathe, think about inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to soften.
  11. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
  12. To come out of this pose, use an exhale to help lift the upper body.
  13. Follow the instructions for the other side.

Parsvottanasana Video

Here’s a video for visual learners.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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