Fingers Pointing Away In Purvottanasana?

February 26, 2015

Transcript of: Why it is easier to do purvottanasana with your fingers pointing away?

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The Question:

All right.  Welcome back.  This month’s question of the month is from Kanjini:
“Good morning David.  Greetings from New Zealand.  A little advice, please.  What do you think of purvottanasana with fingers pointing away from the body?  I’ve always been taught fingers pointing towards the body. Look forward to hearing from you.
P.S. The question arises because recently one of my students insisted on doing the yoga posture with fingers pointing away as it was easier for her.”

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The Answer:

It’s a good question. I guess the real question is: Why is it easier for that yoga student to do purvottanasana with hands pointing away?

So one of the things that restricts purvottanasana—if you don’t know purvottanasana, I’ll throw an image in here—Purvottanasana requires a certain openness in the shoulders. And, believe it or not, most people are going to feel the restriction or the inability to lift their chest from their shoulder because of the biceps.

So the biceps is a flexor of the elbow and it also supinates, it rotates the forearm so the hand is palm up. In purvottanasana we pronate the hand, which is turning it palm down. With the palm down we’re actually starting to stretch the biceps. When we straighten the elbow we’re stretching biceps even more. The other thing that biceps does, it extends the—sorry, the biceps flexes the shoulder joint so when we extend it—extend the shoulder, extend the elbow, and pronate the hand—we’re putting biceps into a—let’s say a maximally lengthened position. And therefore makes it even more difficult to do it with the hands forward right? It’s hard to lift your body up through your shoulder joint.

So if you turn the hands, you reduce some of that resistance and it depends on whether you turn it just from the forearm, or externally rotate, it changes the shoulder position. But either way, you’re undoing at least one piece of that, and for that student in particular it’s probably just enough to make it that much easier for her. But make her do it the hard way, okay?

Reminder, great book: Functional Anatomy of Yoga. I wrote it, that’s why I think it’s so great. It often has answers to many of the questions you would be asking. So get a copy. Take care.