Definition - What does Paryankasana mean?
Paryankasana is the Sanskrit name for a pose in the intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga referred to as couch pose in English. The term paryankasana is derived from the Sanskrit word paryanka, meaning “couch or bed,” and asana, meaning “posture.”
To perform paryankasana, the yogi starts in virasana, or hero pose, and leans back into supta virasana, or reclined hero pose. The yogi then presses the elbows into the mat to support the body while arching the back, letting the crown of the head rest lightly on the floor. The arms extend above the head, but resting on the floor, with the elbows bent and the hands clasping the opposite elbow.
The pose is held for five breaths, to release the posture, uncross the arms and bring the elbows back to the floor, lift the crown of the head off the floor and bring the chin towards the chest. Straighten the back, sit up and move into balasana, or childs pose.
Yogapedia explains Paryankasana
Paryankasana is an intermediate backbend, performed while the legs are held in virasana. For the yogi to perform this posture, they must have developed flexibility in the ankle, knee and hip joints, as well as the quadriceps, which allow the yogi to feel stable as they move towards paryankasana. Without stability in the legs and hips, the legs can open too widely as the body reclines towards the mat, which can compress the back.
Once the back bends, the head naturally lifts and yogi will expand the space between the ribs, lengthen the torso and soften the chest and neck to concentrate the energy to the back of the body. During paryankasana, the yogi should not feel or apply any pressure to the neck, the crown rests on the floor for stability and balance, but it should not support the backbend. For yogis who do not have the strength to hold the backbend, they can uses props or a bolster under the head and the upper and lower back areas and still receive the same benefits of the posture.