Mastering the Side-Lying Pose: Benefits, Variations & Precautions | Your Ultimate Guide

a women lying on the floor

What is the side-lying pose?

The side-lying pose, also known as Vasisthasana in Sanskrit, is a yoga posture that involves balancing on one side of the body. This pose is named after the sage Vasistha, who was known for his wisdom and strength. In the side-lying pose, the body is supported by one arm, while the legs are stacked on top of each other. This posture requires focus, stability, and core strength to maintain proper alignment.

The side-lying pose is often used in yoga practice to build strength in the arms, shoulders, and core muscles. It also helps to improve balance, flexibility, and overall body awareness. This pose is accessible to yogis of all levels, as it can be modified to suit individual needs and abilities. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner, the side-lying pose offers a multitude of benefits for both the body and mind.

Benefits of the side-lying pose

The side-lying pose offers a wide range of benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Here are some of the key advantages of incorporating this pose into your yoga practice:

  1. Strengthens the arms and shoulders: The side-lying pose requires you to support your body weight with one arm. This helps to build strength in the muscles of the upper body. This can improve your overall upper body strength and stability.
  2. Tones the core muscles: As you balance on one side, your core muscles are engaged to maintain stability and proper alignment. Regular practice of the side lying pose can help to tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles.
  3. Improves balance and stability: Balancing on one side of the body challenges your proprioception and improves your sense of balance and stability. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes and individuals who engage in activities that require balance, such as yoga, dance, and sports.
  4. Increases flexibility: The side-lying pose stretches and lengthens the muscles along the sides of the body, including the hips, waist, and ribcage. This can help to improve flexibility and range of motion in these areas.
  5. Promotes spinal alignment: By aligning the body in a lateral position, the side-lying pose helps to decompress the spine and relieve tension in the back. Regular practice of this pose can help to improve posture and alleviate back pain.
  6. Calms the mind and reduces stress: The side lying pose has a calming effect on the nervous system, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also promote a sense of grounding and relaxation, making it an ideal posture for relaxation and meditation.

How to do the side-lying pose correctly

To perform the side lying pose correctly, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  • Start by lying on your side, with your legs extended straight and your feet stacked on top of each other. Rest your head on your bottom arm, ensuring that your neck is in a neutral position.
  • Place your top hand on the floor in front of your chest, fingers pointing forward. Press firmly into your bottom arm and lift your torso off the ground, coming into a side plank position.
  • Engage your core muscles and lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your heels. Keep your body in a straight line and avoid sagging or sinking in the hips.
  • Gaze straight ahead or slightly upward, maintaining a neutral neck position. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, or as long as you feel comfortable.
  • To release the pose, slowly lower your hips back down to the ground, returning to the starting position. Rest for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.

Modifications and variations 

The side-lying pose can be modified and varied to suit individual needs and abilities. Here are a few modifications and variations that you can explore:

  • Knee modification: If you have difficulty balancing on your feet, you can bend your bottom knee and place your foot on the ground for added stability. This modification can be particularly helpful for beginners or individuals with limited flexibility.
  • Supported modification: If you need additional support, you can use a yoga block or bolster underneath your bottom hand. This can help to alleviate wrist discomfort and provide extra stability.
  • Advanced variation: For a greater challenge, you can lift your top leg off the bottom leg and extend it straight up towards the ceiling. This variation adds an element of balance and strength to the pose.
  • Dynamic movement: Instead of holding the side lying pose statically, you can incorporate dynamic movement by lifting and lowering your hips in a controlled manner. This can help to further strengthen the core muscles and improve stability.

Remember to listen to your body and modify the pose as needed. It is important to honor your own limitations and avoid pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. With regular practice, you can gradually increase your strength and flexibility in the side-lying pose.

Precautions and contraindications

While the side lying pose offers numerous benefits, it is important to practice with caution and be aware of any contraindications. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind:

  • Wrist or shoulder injury: If you have a wrist or shoulder injury, it is important to modify the pose or avoid it altogether. Putting weight on an injured wrist or shoulder can exacerbate the injury and cause further discomfort.
  • Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, it is advisable to consult with a qualified prenatal yoga instructor before attempting the side lying pose. They can provide guidance on modifications that are safe and appropriate during pregnancy.
  • Low blood pressure: If you have low blood pressure, be cautious when transitioning into and out of the side-lying pose. The change in position can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, so take your time and move slowly.
  • Neck or spine injury: If you have a neck or spine injury, it is important to avoid any movements or positions that may aggravate the injury. Modify the pose or choose alternative postures that are safe and suitable for your condition.

Always listen to your body and consult with a qualified yoga instructor if you have any concerns or pre-existing conditions. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure that you practice the side lying pose safely and effectively.

Remember to approach your practice with patience and self-compassion. The side-lying pose is a journey of self-discovery and growth, and it may take time to fully experience its benefits. Be consistent in your practice and trust the process.

Tips for maintaining proper alignment in the side-lying pose

Maintaining proper alignment is essential for maximizing the benefits of the side-lying pose and preventing injury. Here are a few tips to help you maintain proper alignment:

  • Engage your core: Activate your core muscles by drawing your navel towards your spine. This helps to stabilize your body and maintain a straight line from head to heels.
  • Distribute your weight evenly: Ensure that your weight is evenly distributed between your hand and your feet. Avoid putting too much pressure on one side, as this can strain the supporting arm and cause discomfort.
  • Align your wrists: Position your bottom hand directly under your shoulder, with the fingers pointing forward. This helps to maintain stability and prevent strain on the wrists.
  • Lengthen your spine: Imagine a straight line running from the crown of your head to your tailbone. Lengthen your spine and avoid rounding or collapsing in the upper back.
  • Keep your hips lifted: Lift your hips off the ground and engage your glutes to maintain a straight line from head to heels. Avoid sagging or sinking in the hips, as this can compromise the alignment of the pose.
  • Relax your shoulders: Soften your shoulders away from your ears and avoid tensing or hunching them. This allows for greater freedom of movement and helps to prevent strain on the neck and shoulders.

By focusing on these alignment cues, you can ensure that you are practicing the side-lying pose safely and effectively. Remember to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed to maintain proper alignment throughout the pose.

Variations for different levels of experience

The side-lying pose can be modified and adapted to suit individuals of all levels of experience. Here are a few variations of the side-lying pose that are suitable for beginners, intermediate practitioners, and advanced yogis:

  • Beginner variation: For beginners, it is recommended to start with the basic side-lying pose. Use a knee modification or a prop for added stability and support.
  • Intermediate variation: Once you are comfortable with the basic side lying pose, you can explore more challenging variations. These variations include lifting the top leg or transitioning into other-side lying poses. This variation requires greater balance and core strength.
  • Advanced variation: Advanced practitioners can experiment with more advanced variations. These include transitioning from side plank to side crow or incorporating arm balances into the side-lying pose. These variations require a high level of strength, flexibility, and body awareness.

Remember that progression in yoga is a personal journey, and it is important to honor your own limitations and listen to your body. Do not push yourself beyond your comfort zone and always practice mindfulness and self-care.


The side-lying pose is a versatile and accessible yoga posture that offers a myriad of benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. From improving strength and flexibility to promoting relaxation and stress relief, this pose has something to offer yogis of all levels.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner, the side-lying pose can be modified and adapted to suit your individual needs and goals. By practicing with proper alignment, mindfulness, and self-compassion, you can unlock the full potential of this pose and experience its transformative effects.

Embrace the serenity and grounding of the side-lying pose as you embark on a journey of self-care and self-discovery. Allow yourself to release tension, find balance, and restore harmony to your body and mind. Immerse yourself in the therapeutic benefits of the side-lying pose and discover the profound impact it can have on your overall well-being.