Purvottana

Definition - What does Purvottana mean?

Purvottana is a Sanskrit word that means “intense stretch of the front body.” It comes purva, meaning “east”; ut, meaning “intense”; and tan, meaning “stretch.” The front of the body is referred to as “east” because yoga was traditionally practiced in the morning facing the sun as it rose in the east.

The term is typically used to describe a yoga pose that provides stretches the front of the body – most commonly, it refers to purvottanasana. In English, this pose is called upward plank pose.

Yogapedia explains Purvottana

There are several variations of purvottanasana, all of which provide an intense stretch of the front body. All are practiced beginning in dandasana (staff pose). The palms are placed on the ground with the fingers facing forward, then the hips lift off the ground as the arms straighten. In purvottanasana, the legs are straightened, the back arches and the head drops toward the ground.

In other variations, the legs may remain bent at the knees at a 90-degree angle. In ardha purvottanasana, also known as reverse table top pose, the back does not arch and the neck remains in line with the torso, which is parallel to the ground. Other variations are:

  • Eka pada ardha purvottanasana, in which one leg extends straight to the sky
  • Ardha purvottanasana pada ardha utkatasana, in which the ankle of one leg rests atop the knee of the opposite leg, as in a hip flexor stretch
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