Purvottanasana combines all of the above and sends emotions rushing to Jenny Raymundo’s heart. She deconstructs the pose.
Ashtanga yoga has been my practice for about seven years. I love the sequence as the flow of asanas don’t require me to think too much. These guidelines are in place for good reason. The practice is designed in a way that keeps energy moving and helps my mind to gain focus and induces a sense of calm in me. When I first started practising yoga, I followed the Western style where my practice was led by a teacher everyday. At the time, I felt I needed guidance everyday. But, when I started the Mysore-style ashtanga practice, where we have to develop the discipline to do our practice on our own, this allowed me to listen to my breath and then move my body with my breath.
I practised ashtanga for a few years before arriving in Mysore to learn at the source of the ashtanga lineage. At present, I study ashtanga under the guidance of Paramguru Sharath Jois, and I feel lucky to be able to study under him and alongside devoted fellow practitioners. One of the asanas in the primary series is purvottanasana, which means stretching the body to the “east” as compared to stretching it to the “west,” which is paschimottanasana. This pose strengthens the arms, shoulders and legs, and the back and the core are activated.
I often notice that purvottanasana seems to be one of the poses that students like to forget. It’s a counter pose to paschimottanasana and it’s a pose that focuses on the strength of the legs and arms. It requires stability and power in the arms, legs and the core to be able to lift oneself. It’s a powerful pose that requires your legs and arms to be straight and your hips and chest pushing up. It’s a fantastic feeling to breathe in this pose.
At times, practitioners are intimidated by the position of the head. With the chest lifted and open, you might feel the head too detached from your body and this gives rise to feelings of panic but keep working on your strength and flexibility, and you won’t feel any discomfort. Ashtanga is a very systematic and intuitive practice that works on both strength and flexibility.
Purvottanasana makes me feel strong and sensitive at the same time. I gain strength from my arms and legs — it is not simple to be able to lift oneself in this position. My open chest and the rush of emotions to my heart when I am in this position makes me feel sensitive and compassionate. It seems very simple and yet, I learn something new about this pose every time I practise it. Like with everything in ashtanga, approach this pose with patience and sensitivity to your body, and practise under the guidance of a teacher. Most of us rush into things but to understand your practice, you have to slow down and find more awareness in your movement.
Asana to Strengthen Arms and Legs
Sit in dandasana with your arms straight and your legs straight and engaged.
Move your arms to the back and place your palms a foot away from your sit bones. Open your chest and keep your legs straight and engaged.
Inhale and push your hips and chest towards the sky. Keep your legs and arms straight and engage your core. Push your feet into the floor and keep your head tilted backwards. Your gaze is fixed on your nose or third eye. Stay in the pose for five breaths and release on an exhalation.
Jenny Raymundo is a Level 2 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher based in Antwerp, Belgium. Find her teaching schedules at MYSORESPACE.