Listen to the Pronunciation of Purvottanasana. Courtesy of the Online Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide.
Is it not interesting to think that a pose you love is hated by one of the top yoga teachers in the world? But it reminds us that every individual’s yoga practice is unique. And that is one of the many reasons we love Yoga, right? Yoga challenges us and each day we step ont our mat we can learn something new if we are simply open to the process. Purvottasana is literally translated as “Intense Stretch to the East”. This is in contrast to Paschimottanasana, or “Intense Stretch to the West”. Purvottanasana seems like the opposite pose to Chaturanga Dandasana, Four-Limbed Staff Pose. In fact, this appears to be the consensus in the blogosphere, but this is actually incorrect. Purva is translated as East and refers to the East side of the body or the front of the body, whereas Paschima is translated as West and refers to the back of the body. In Chinese Philosophy, the front of the body is the yin side of the body, whereas the back of the body is the Yang side of the body. Does anyone know why in Indian Philosophy the front of the body is the East and the back of the body is the West?
In the meantime, let’s get back to the matter at hand. Esteemed Yoga Teacher, Roger Cole, recommends Purvottanasana as a hamstring strengthening pose which can help prevent over-stretching in the upper Hamstring Tendons, for those of us who are especially bendy. Other poses which can strengthen the hamstrings are, you guessed it, Backbends, like Setu Bandha Sarvangasana and Salabhasana, as well as standing poses such as, Virabhadrasana III
Sara Ivanhoe has a step-by-step description of how to practice Purvottanasana from the preparatory tabletop position into the full pose. She indicates that you can “eliminate pesky back fat” with this pose. Now who can argue with that?