Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana): Steps, Benefits, and Contraindications

Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana) - SharpMuscle
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Thread the Needle Pose, also known as Parsva Balasana or Urdhva Mukha Pasasana, creates a twist in the spine, focusing on the upper back and shoulders. It provides a gentle stretch and release for the muscles in the targeted areas. The twist helps to increase the flexibility and mobility of the spine, while the stretch can alleviate tension and tightness in the shoulders and upper back. The asana also encourages deep breathing, which can help to promote relaxation and calm the mind.

Urdhva Mukha Pasasana is often practiced as a way to release tension, improve posture, and create space in the upper body. It can be modified to suit individual needs and can be a beneficial addition to a yoga practice or stretching routine.

Information

Known as:Thread the Needle Pose, Parsva Balasana, Urdhva Mukha Pasasana, Urdhva Mukha Pasasana A
Sanskrit name:पर्श्व बालासन
IAST:Pārśva Bālāsana
Pronunciation:parsh-vah bah-lah-suh-nuh
Type:Forward-Bend, twist, stretch
Level:Beginner
Focus:Torso, chest, shoulders, spine, core
Total time:18-32 seconds
Drishti:Forward
Chakra:Manipura (solar plexus) Chakra
Indications:Thoracic (upper back), shoulders, chest, pectoral, core, torso, hips, groin, inner thighs, mild to moderate back pain, abdominal organs, digestion, detoxification, stress, anxiety
Counterposes:Balasana (Child’s Pose), Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjaryasana (Cat Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Preparatory poses:Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana), Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose), Modified Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose), Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist Pose), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Chest and shoulder stretches
Follow-up poses:Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose), Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose), Balasana (Child’s Pose), Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Contraindications:Recovering from any injury of neck, shoulders, arms, rib cage, abdominal muscles, back muscles, hips, pelvis, knees, and head; recovering from a surgery of any visceral organs; severe back pain, arthritis, a migraine, blood pressure, spondylitis or herniated disc

Meaning

The name “Parsva Balasana” is a Sanskrit name, which is made of three words — Parsva + Bala + Asana:

  1. Parsva” = “side” or “flank”
  2. Bala” = “child”
  3. Asana” = “pose” or “posture”

Therefore, the name “Parsva Balasana” can be interpreted as “Side Child’s Pose” or “Thread the Needle Pose.”

The name reflects the twisting movement of the spine and the positioning of the arms, creating an asana that resembles a child’s resting position while threading the arm through the space created between the torso and the floor.

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Benefits of Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana)

Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle Pose) offers various physical mental and emotional benefits, which are listed below:

Physical Benefits:

  • Stretches the shoulders, chest, pectoral, hips, groins, and inner thighs
  • Strengthens and tone the core
  • Increase the flexibility and mobility of the spine, especially in the thoracic (upper back) area
  • Opens the shoulders, chest, and pectoral muscles
  • Relieves the tightness in the shoulders, chest, pectoral, hips, groins, and inner thighs
  • Alleviate stiffness and improves the spinal health
  • Improves the stability and posture
  • Creates a calming effect on the nervous system
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs
  • Enhances the digestion
  • Aid the detoxification

Mental and Emotional Benefits:

  • Reduces the stress, anxiety, and fatigue
  • Enhances the relaxation
  • Increased the mind-body connection and promotes mindfulness
  • Energizes and rejuvenates the mind and body
  • Promotes a sense of vitality
  • Improves the mental clarity, concentration, and focus
  • Stimulate the release of stored tension and emotions in the body
  • Provides an opportunity for emotional release and promote a sense of emotional balance

Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana) Practice Guide

Thread the Needle Pose involves a twisting motion and a gentle stretch for the shoulders, upper back, and spine.

In this asana, you begin in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor. From there, you reach one arm underneath the opposite arm, threading it through the space between your supporting arm and your body. The extended arm reaches out to the side, and you may rest your shoulder and ear on the ground.

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Start by assuming Bharmanasana (Table Top Pose) with your wrists aligned with your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips.
  2. Inhale as you lift your left arm towards the ceiling, elongating your spine and opening your torso to the left. Turn your head to gaze at your raised arm while keeping your abdominal muscles engaged.
  3. Exhale as you rotate your body towards the ground and slide your left arm underneath your right armpit, with your palm facing upward. Allow your left shoulder to rest on the floor and turn your head to the right, placing your left ear on the ground.
  4. Activate your right shoulder by bending the right elbow and gently twisting your chest towards the ceiling. Maintain balance on your knees and feet, lifting your hips while optionally keeping your feet on your toes to enhance the stretch in your soles and ankles.
  5. Stay in this position for approximately 3–4 breaths initially to deepen the engagement of your muscles, joints, and connective tissues. As you breathe, focus on the stretch sensation in your inner thighs, knees, groins, psoas, abdominal area, upper back, shoulders, and neck during this twist.
  6. To exit the pose, inhale, and press through your right palm, lifting your head and shoulders while raising your left arm back towards the ceiling.
  7. Exhale and place your left palm on the floor, returning to Bharmanasana (Table Top Pose). Take a moment to relax and breathe before repeating the sequence on the other side.
  8. Finally, completely relax in Balasana (Child’s Pose) after completing the practice on both sides. This will help release tension in your shoulders and lower back.
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Common Mistakes

Common mistakes in Thread the Needle Pose can affect the alignment, effectiveness, and safety of the asana. Practice Parsva Balasana with mindfulness and awareness of your body’s alignment to avoid the common mistakes.

1. Collapsed or Rounded Shoulders

Allowing the shoulders to collapse or rounding the upper back can compromise the stretch and twist in the asana. It limits the opening of the shoulders and reduces the effectiveness of the stretch in the upper back and spine. To avoid this mistake, focus on keeping the shoulders engaged and the chest open, maintaining a straight line from the extended arm to the fingertips.

2. Excessive Neck Strain

Straining or over-rotating the neck in an attempt to look up or over the extended arm can lead to discomfort or potential injury. The neck should remain in a neutral position, aligned with the spine, to avoid strain. Gently turn the head to the side, resting the ear on the ground, without excessive force or tension.

3. Overarching or Collapsed Lower Back

Allowing the lower back to arch excessively or collapse can compromise the stability and alignment of the spine. This can strain the lower back and limit the benefits of the asana. To maintain proper alignment, engage the core muscles and lengthen the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head.

4. Lack of Stability in the Supporting Arm

Neglecting to maintain stability in the supporting arm can affect the balance and alignment of the asana. The supporting hand should be grounded firmly on the mat with the fingers spread wide to provide a stable foundation. This helps to ensure proper alignment and support during the twist.

5. Holding the Pose with Tension

Holding the pose with excessive tension in the muscles can hinder relaxation and the release of tension in the targeted areas. It is important to find a balance between engaging the muscles to maintain stability and allowing a sense of ease and relaxation in the asana. Focus on breathing deeply and consciously relaxing the muscles while maintaining proper alignment.

Modifications and Variations

Modifications and variations in Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana) can be beneficial to accommodate different body types, flexibility levels, and specific needs.

They provide options to make the pose more accessible or to deepen the stretch. They can help avoid strain or discomfort, increase accessibility, and provide options for both beginners and experienced yogi.

It’s crucial to listen to your body, practice mindfully, and choose modifications or variations that work best for you. If you are unsure, seek the advice and assistance of a certified yoga instructor/instructor.

However, the modifications and variations of Parsva Balasana are explaining below:

  1. Modified Thread the Needle: If reaching the arm all the way through is challenging, you can modify the asana by resting the forearm or hand on the floor instead of threading it completely. This modification reduces the depth of the twist and allows for a gentler stretch, making the asana more accessible for those with limited shoulder mobility or flexibility.
  2. Block or Prop Support: Placing a yoga block or bolster under the extended arm can provide support and stability in Parsva Balasana. This modification helps to maintain proper alignment and reduces strain on the shoulders and neck. It can be especially useful for individuals with tight shoulders or those recovering from injuries.
  3. Supine Thread the Needle: Instead of performing the asana in a tabletop position, you can practice it while lying on your back. Lie flat on your back, cross one ankle over the opposite thigh, and reach the arm through the space created between the legs, threading it around the shin or thigh. This variation allows for a deeper stretch in the hips and glutes while minimizing strain on the wrists and shoulders.
  4. Bound Thread the Needle: For a more advanced variation, you can add a bind to Thread the Needle Pose. After threading the arm through, reach the opposite arm behind the back and attempt to clasp the hands or use a strap to bridge the gap. This variation enhances the stretch in the shoulders, chest, and upper back, while also challenging balance and flexibility.
  5. Supported Thread the Needle: Using props such as bolsters, blankets, or pillows can provide support and comfort in the asana. Placing a bolster or rolled-up blanket under the chest or the extended arm can elevate and support the upper body, allowing for a more relaxed and restorative experience.
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Precautions and Contraindications

Consider precautions and contraindications, which are crucial in order to ensure the safety and well-being of proactions with specific conditions or injuries. The precautions and contraindications of Thread The Needle Pose are explaining below:

  1. Recovering from any injury of neck, shoulders, arms, rib cage, abdominal muscles, back muscles, hips, pelvis, knees, and head: This asana involves twisting and placing pressure on various parts of the body. If you’re recovering from an injury in any of these areas, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor/teacher before attempting Parsva Balasana. They can assess your condition and provide guidance on modifications or alternative asanas that are safe for your recovery.
  2. Recovering from a surgery of any visceral organs: After undergoing surgery on visceral organs, it is crucial to avoid any movements or asanas that may strain or disrupt the healing process. Parsva Balasana involves twisting and can create pressure on the abdomen and organs. It is best to avoid this asana during the recovery period and follow the specific guidelines given by your healthcare provider.
  3. Severe back pain, arthritis, spondylitis, or herniated disc: These conditions affect the spine and surrounding structures. Thread The Needle Pose involves a spinal twist, which may exacerbate pain or discomfort in individuals with these conditions. It is advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare professional or a knowledgeable yoga instructor/teacher, who can provide suitable modifications or alternative asanas that alleviate pressure on the affected areas.
  4. Migraine: Migraine headaches can be triggered or worsened by certain movements and postures. The inversion and twisting involved in Parsva Balasana may potentially aggravate migraines. If you are prone to migraines, it is recommended to avoid this yoga asana during an active migraine episode or when experiencing aura symptoms.
  5. High blood pressure: Parsva Balasana requires balancing and can involve a mild inversion of the head and neck. For individuals with high blood pressure, this inversion can impact blood circulation and potentially increase blood pressure. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before practicing this asana, or opt for modifications that keep the head and neck in a neutral position.
  6. Other ailments that bring discomfort to breathing or muscles: If you have any medical condition that impacts breathing or causes discomfort in the muscles, it is crucial to approach Thread The Needle Pose with caution. Twisting and engaging the muscles in this pose can potentially strain or exacerbate existing discomfort. Seek guidance from a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor/teacher, who can provide appropriate modifications or alternative asanas that accommodate your specific needs.

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