Parsvakonasana has always been one of my favorite standing postures. It strengthens the legs, opens the hip joints, expands the heart and lungs, and gives a delicious stretch to the whole side of the body. Its crisp, clean lines and angles are ideal for exploring the beauty of precise alignment.
Stand with your feet about one leg's length apart. Turn the right foot out 90 degrees and the left foot in about 45 degrees, with the right heel in line with the left instep. Spread your arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down, and look out over the right fingertips [ Figure 1
Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, bend the right knee. In the full pose, the right shin should be perpendicular to the floor, and the right thigh should be parallel to the floor, although beginners may find it easier, at first, to bend the knee a little less deeply [ Figure 2
Notice that as you bend the knee, the left hip bone tends to roll toward the midline of the body, closing the left hip joint. Resist that impulse; instead, encourage it to roll open toward the left, creating more spaciousness in the belly.
Take a few breaths here, keeping the spine long and perpendicular to the floor. Then, as you exhale, release the right elbow onto the right knee and stretch the left arm up and over the ear, creating one long, straight line from the outside of the left foot up the side of the body and out through the left fingertips [ Figure 3
]. Turn the head to look up under your arm toward the ceiling. Stay here and breathe. For some people, this may be far enough. If your hips feel open and you want a deeper stretch, lower the right hand to the floor on the outside of the right foot, keeping the extension through the right side of the body [ Figure 4
Once you have settled into the finished pose, begin to explore the subtleties of alignment. Notice how pressing more firmly into the outside edge of your back foot sends a wave of energy up the whole left side of your body. Keep rolling the left hip back as you roll the right sitting bone under your body; and notice how that allows you to open your belly and heart more fully as your turn your torso toward the ceiling. Release the top ribs down into the body and notice how that enables you to open the bottom ribs, breathing more evenly into both sides of the lungs. Explore alignment not to get the pose "right" but to create more freedom for your body to express itself.
When you are finished with your exploration, come up on an inhalation [ Figure 5
]. Turn your feet in the other direction and repeat the pose on the opposite side.