Pose of the Month: Purvottanasana


I read a line in a book once that has stuck with me for years, “God gather’s his sheep before dark.”  It wasn’t in a Christian text, but in a yogic one.; the words of a guru to a struggling student.  You will never be left behind in the dark because the sun will always rise even in the blackest night.  Purvottonasana (inclined plane pose) is an asana that opens us to that inner light.  The light of the divine, the light of God, the light within.

Sometimes we can get so protective of our hearts that it is as if we have put our feelings in cage.  We view our hearts as fragile, something to be protected.  We close the space at the center of our chest in an effort to guard our most precious space of feeling.  Though we relate the heart mostly with the feeling of love, it is also the center of so many other emotions; fear, sadness, and even despair are all emotions of the heart.  We come to believe that these feelings and emotions are signs of a weak heart.  A heart that has been tarnished or compromised, so we close down even more. 

Purvottonasana offers a counterpose to the perceived fragility of the heart by lifting it high and allowing our inner light to rise.  Pushing through the boundaries and self imposed limitations we put around the space of the heart, Purvottonasana opens the chest fully and exposes the space of the heart to the world.  Through the support of the shoulders and arms as a foundation and the deep strength of the core, Purvottonasana teaches us that we can break out of the darkness that surrounds our hearts and shine!

Purvottonasana means intense eastward facing stretch.  The east is the direction of beginnings, potential, the location of the rising sun.  When we lift our hearts to the rising sun, we acknowledge our growing light within. We are able to more clearly see our own rising potential.  But, we can’t get there alone.  We draw on the strength of the core and the legs, as well as the support of the shoulders as they draw underneath the base of the heart and lift it high.  Just as in our yoga practice of life, we can rarely lift to our greatest heights without support.  It takes a strong connection to our core of strength; mental, emotional, and physical, to allow us to be unbound in our reach.  We also have to trust our supportive base.  Our family, our friends, our teachers.  But maybe most of all we have to trust that the light will shine, even in the midst of immeasurable shadows. 

The first step in allowing the sun of our heart to rise is for us to create it’s dawn.  To take the time, energy, and courage in our practice to be conscious of our heart space.  For those who work so hard to stay protected, Purvottonasana can seem incredibly challenging.  We can feel unable to lift the heart due to the heavy weight of the pelvis or the weakness in our center and our legs.  We may feel unsupported by the strength of the arms and the shoulders and shake with resistance of allowing our hearts to open and shine.  Often, the challenge in Purvottonasana as in life is what to do with the head?  If we can encourage the head to “get out of the way,” then our hearts can expand fully and guide us into spaces we didn’t even know were possible.

So, we work to lessen the control of the mind, Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha:  Yoga is the cessation of mind fluctuation, not only in our practice but in our day-to-day lives as well.  When we allow ourselves to lead with the space of the heart more and more, then the dawning of its light is no longer something to be feared or resisted, instead it is welcomed.  As we let go of the distraction of the mind, we begin to feel the warmth of the sun in all experiences.

Purvottonasana is a wonderful place to practice this dawn of the heart on your mat, and carry forward what you discover in your life.  Remember, you never be left alone in the dark.

Kelly Golden


Copyright YogaBasics.com, reprinted with permission.