Surprisingly to me, this is my favourite pose of the moment, jathara parivartanasana. Jathar means abdomen in Sanskrit and parivartanasnana is from parivartti, meaning turning around.
As I prepared for my recent JI3 assessment I struggled with teaching this pose – there didn’t seem to be much to it! And it’s a struggle to do until you develop the strength to hold it comfortably for 20 seconds or so. I wasn’t very fond of it.
However, I learnt if I examined something closely enough and spent enough time with it, it could become fascinating. As I practised, the pose started to come more easily and felt good on many levels, especially after shoulderstand, which is where it occurs in the JI3 practice sequence written by Mr Iyengar.
A deceptively simple (although strong!) pose, it’s attributed with many benefits, including
- stimulating the vagus nerve that affects the parasympathetic system (digestion, respiration)
- lengthening and re-aligning the spine
- relieving headaches and fatigue
- eliminating stress
- massaging the abdominal organs
- stimulating manipura chakra (behind the navel – self-esteem, will power, ego and self-discipline)
- activating muladhara chakra (base of the spine – groundedness and stability)
- balancing the 5 elements (water, fire, ether/space, air, earth)
In Light On Yoga Mr Iyengar (never one to mince words!) writes ” This asana is good for reducing excess fat. It tones and eradicates sluggishness of the liver, spleen and pancreas. It also cures gastritis and strengthens the intestines. By its regular practice all the abdominal organs are kept in trim. It helps to relieve sprains and catches in the lower back and hip region.”
It’s also interesting to note that there are many lymph nodes in the belly and lower thoracic area, so it’s easy to imagine this pose assisting the function of the lymphatic system.
Lymphatic system showing the cysterna chyli and lymph nodes of the small intestine
How to do it
This is a strong pose and you need a strong lower back to do it, otherwise keep your knees bent and work your way up to straightening the legs in your practice. Passively lying with the bent knees resting on a bolster or blanket will also give some of the benefits of wringing out the abdomen.
- Lie on your back and extend your arms out to the side, in line with the shoulders, palms up
- Exhale, raise both legs together to 90 degrees. As BKS says “they should remain poker stiff”.
- Take a few breaths, inhale and as you exhale take both legs down to the floor towards the right hand (to your capacity). Don’t go further than you can hold. Reach the back to the floor, if your lower back starts to arch you’ve gone too far.
- Work from your abdomen, not from just swinging the legs
- If you can get down that far, hold the legs just above the right hand for 20 seconds or more, otherwise hold at your limit
- Turn the abdomen to the left and extend the arms away from each other
- Bring the legs back to perpendicular and repeat on the other side
Enjoy and who knows, you may even shed some excess fat!