The Ashtanga Yoga system focuses on deep breathing with sound, engagement of internal and external muscles, and a set sequence of series’ that practitioners can work to master over time.  The first series in Ashtanga is known as Yoga Chikitsa or the Primary Series.  The fourth seated posture in that series is called Purvottanasana.  This yoga asana activates the whole body and helps to strengthen the arms and legs, open the heart and stretch the front of the body. In this blog post, take a look at the benefits, contraindications, modifications and steps to safely help you master Purvottanasana.

Purvottanasana - Eastern Bend stretch

Benefits of Purvottanasana

Strengthens Upper Body

Opens the Chest and Shoulders

Stretches the Front Body

Activates Core Muscles

Boosts Energy Flow

Improves Digestion

Enhances Spinal Health

Develops Mental Focus

Click here to watch a Yoga tutorial breaking down Purvottanasana

Purvottanasana - Eastern Bend stretch

Step-by-Step Guide to Purvottanasana with Sanskrit Vinyasa count

We will be entering this posture from downward facing dog, having just taken a vinyasa after Paschimottanasana to seated position. 

(Vinyasa #7)

From Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog), look forward and walk or jump your feet through and have a seat on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.  Take both hands back behind you, palms down, fingers facing forward.  Exhale there.

(Vinyasa #8)

Inhale, and press your hands and feet down into the floor as you lift your pelvis upward.  Press out of the feet and legs.  Take your head back and look down the tip of your nose (Nasagrai Dristhi).  Take five deep breaths.

(Vinyasa #9)

Exhale and lower down.

(Vinyasa #10)

Inhale, bring your hands to the floor, cross your legs and lift your body up off the ground.

(Vinyasa #11)

Exhale and jump back into Chaturanga Dandasana.

(Vinyasa #12)

Inhale into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana(Upward facing dog)

(Vinyasa #13)

Exhale into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog)


Click here to watch a Yoga tutorial breaking down Purvottanasana


Bent Knee Variation:

If you have limited flexibility in your hamstrings or lower back sensitivity, you can practice Purvottanasana with your knees bent. Keep your feet on the ground and focus on lifting your hips and opening your chest. This modification reduces strain on the lower back and hamstrings.

purvottanasana modification

Assisted Variation:

If you experience wrist discomfort, practice Purvottanasana with the assistance of a partner or yoga teacher. They can gently provide support as you lift your hips. This minimizes pressure on the wrists while allowing you to experience the pose’s benefits.

Click here to watch a Yoga tutorial breaking down Purvottanasana

This is an eastern bend stretch or backward facing stretch.  Up until this point in Ashtanga yoga practice, most of what we have done, and will primarily continue to do throughout the primary series, is forward bending.  This is the first and only posture, until backbends at the end of primary series, that we take the body backward in space.  The pose also helps us open the chest, stretch the psoas, and engage the back of the body (lats and erectors and hamstrings and glutes).  Don’t worry though, we explore many opportunities to take the body backward in space when we reach the second, or intermediate series of the Ashtanga Yoga practice!

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About Krista

I am a level II authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher and I am passionate about sharing these teachings with all who wish to learn.

If you want to join me in person I teach daily classes at The Yoga Shala in Winter Park, Florida. I also offer virtual sessions in Yoga, Meditation, Breath-work, Nutrition, Life Coaching and Mentorship.  Check out for more details.

If you do not live in Central Florida and want to find an authorized teacher in your area, check out my teacher, Sharath Jois’ website, for a list of all teachers authorized and certified by his yoga centre in India.

Paschimottanasana - forward bend stretch


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