Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Purvottanasana Mean?

Purvottanasana is a balancing asana that is empowering, energizing and strengthening. The name comes from the Sanskrit purva, meaning “east,” uttana, meaning “intense stretch,” and asana, meaning “pose.”

To practice this asana, begin by sitting on the mat with legs straight out in front of the body and active (as in staff pose, or dandasana). Reach the hands behind the body, pressing them into the mat. In this asana, the hands can be positioned in three different ways, so the practitioner should choose whichever variation is most comfortable. The hands can be behind the body with the fingers facing away from the body, which provides a greater chest stretch. The fingers can face towards the body to provide a greater wrist stretch. Or the fingers can be pointed slightly outward to the sides: this variation may be a gentler choice for those with wrist or shoulder discomfort, but it requires additional concentration to keep the wrists and shoulders aligned. Once the hands have been placed, inhale and press into both the hands and feet, lifting the hips and glutes off the mat. Keep the legs straight and the pelvis lifted toward the ceiling, maintaining a straight, long line from the head to the feet, while also keeping the glutes relaxed. The heels should be pressing firmly into the mat, although the toes may not yet reach far enough to allow for flat feet against the mat.

Purvottanasana is also known as upward (or reverse) plank pose in English.


Yogapedia Explains Purvottanasana

Once confident in this asana, one may choose to further lift the chest higher and dip the top of the head towards the mat. However, those with neck and shoulder injuries should take caution and maintain head and neck alignment if that is more comfortable. In addition, one may choose to challenge their strength by lifting one leg at a time, alternating legs, into the air.

For many practitioners, purvottanasana can symbolize new possibilities and refreshed energy. The Sanskrit name for the pose means “intense eastward stretch,” where “east” refers to the front of the body and representing the sun that rises in the east each new day. As this pose opens the chest, it places the practitioner in a posture of spiritual openness and receptivity at the heart.

In addition, purvottanasana is believed to activate the manipura (solar plexus) chakra, as well as the sahasrara (crown) chakra, increasing both higher consciousness and vitality.

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