Belonging to the functional classification of Purvatana (Purva – East i.e. anterior part of the body) the purpose of this pose is to open up the front of the body where the trunk moves away from the legs. This creates an expansion of the chest, strengthens the spinal muscles and improves the mobility of the spine and posture. Energetically it is a very active pose which induces an extroverted state of mind. It also stimulates the digestive system and internal organs. It is important to keep the focus in the upper back whilst protecting the lower lumbar in order to prepare the body for more advanced backbends.
Cautions: avoid the pose if you suffer from any spinal or shoulder injuries. If you experience wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, try folding the mat or using a blanket underneath the wrists for support. Avoid the pose during pregnancy.
Start from a prone position lying down on your front with your forehead on the mat, maintaining the length in the back of the neck, chin slightly inwards.
Bring your hands beneath the shoulders and keep the elbows close to the body.
If there is any discomfort in your lower back, you can separate the legs at hip width distance instead of keeping the feet together. The legs should be activated and the top of the feet pressing down.
On your next inhalation, allow the ribcage to expand. On your next exhalation, draw the navel towards the spine, slightly contracting the lower abdomen and pressing the hips down towards the floor. This helps protect the lower back. If this is easier for you, you can also think of drawing the tailbone under.
Now on your next inhalation, gently peel off the torso off the mat, keeping the length in the back of the neck and the spine. Have a sense of lifting through the crown of the head and keep the shoulders away from the ears. Keep drawing the navel towards the spine.
Note the hands are there as a reference and for support, however you should not be pushing from the hands to lift up, since this would accentuate the curvature in the lower back. It is recommended to lift as high as you would with the hands off the floor. Remember the focus is in the upper back.
The gaze should be towards the ground. Avoid crunching the neck and keep the back if the neck lengthened. Have a sense of slightly drawing the hands backwards to expand the ribcage.
As you exhale, bring the torso back down and one ear to the mat to rest, release the arms along the body and allow the toes to touch. You can balance the hips from right to left gently. Energetically release the pose and take a few breaths there noticing the different sensations in the body.
Bring the hands back underneath the shoulders and forehead on the mat to prepare for another round. Repeat a few times, as desired. You can also stay in the pose and breathe normally before releasing again. Take the time to rest in between each pose and bring the other ear to the mat. Observe, appreciate, smile and keep practicing!