Definition - What does Parsvottanasana mean?
Parsvottanasana is a standing intense side stretch yoga pose that deeply stretches the backs of the legs and improves balance. From tadasana, feet step three to four feet apart, toes pointing forward, hips squaring forward. The heel of the front foot is aligned with the arch of the back foot. Hands are brought together behind the back in reverse prayer pose, torso faces the same direction as the front foot. With an inhale, torso elongates; with an exhale, it extends over the front leg. Shoulders are drawn back and chest is open.
The name comes from the Sanskrit parsva, meaning "side," ut, meaning "intense," tan, meaning "to stretch" and asana, meaning "pose" or "posture." Parsvottanasana may also be referred to as intense side stretch pose or pyramid pose in English.
Yogapedia explains Parsvottanasana
Parsvottanasana is a pose that teaches one to facilitate freedom by setting up boundaries.
Patanjali´s eighth "limb" of yoga is samadhi, an ultimate experience of yogic freedom. In order to reach it, one must first practice the other seven limbs that precede it. The first one, yama, is a group of ethical principles that shall be followed. These principles are setting up boundaries that then later lead to the the ultimate freedom - samadhi. Similarly, in parsvottanasana, setting a firm foundation with alignment teaches one to cultivate a sense of freedom. The boundaries and structure of alignment and muscular action that one establishes through this sequence allows for a safe and deep release as well as the ability to experience more freedom of movement in this and other poses.