Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Much yoga is often taught by word of mouth. If your teacher tells you "this body shape is called Lizard," why question it? Alas, many of us might be repeating things and losing the roots.
I have gone through some excellent teacher training programs, yet we never actually covered this pose. I realized I understood it pretty well physically, but didn't know the Sanskrit name.
Then I realized I couldn't find its origin. It's not in Light on Yoga, at any rate.
This blog post is a bookmark for -- hopefully -- more exploration. Here's what I found so far:
The name of this pose is Utthān Pṛisṭhāsana
YouTube Pronunciation by Yoga with Anjani
According to Yoga with Anjani, Pṛisṭha means a page of a book. Utthāna means "bursting open." So is this pose an invitation to "crack our books" and study? Svādhyāya is the honored study of spiritual books.
Meaning according to "Tummee Yoga Sequencing Website" [I do not use this website for sequencing! I can't vouch for this web site in any way.]
"In Sanskrit, ‘uttan’ = ‘stretch deep out’, and ‘pristha’ = ‘back of the body’, and ‘asana’ = ‘posture’. Utthan Pristhasana, is also called Lizard Pose. Lizards have a great flexible upper body and hence the back of the body in this posture resembles the stretched out lizard. And the practice of the same is said to bring the very same flexibility and suppleness in the back and the various muscles involved.
Lizard Pose is considered a base pose as lizard pose variations can be derived from this pose.Lizard Pose helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences."
I don't know if this is a reputable source or not.
According to a Sanskrit Dictionary, "Pṛisṭha" means a page of a book.
According to Light on Yoga, Utthāna means intense stretch.
What does any of this have to do with Lizards?
I had a teacher tell me that it is a reference to how some lizards walk homolaterally, meaning, they move both their right side limbs first, then both their left side limbs. But then I saw Lizards on YouTube walking contralaterally.
Maybe it has to do with how you swing your leg forward towards your front hand?
The origins remain a mystery. But it can be an excellent stretch!
It can be a very intense stretch for many of us. Be sure to listen to your body! Keep your front knee relatively atop the heel so the knee doesn't wander too far to the side and strain your knee ligaments.
In the above photo, I am doing a warm-up stretch. In the final pose, the sole of the foot is grounded.
If you move your torso away from the front leg, you probably get more of an inner thigh stretch. Keeping your shoulder close to the front leg usually creates more of a glute stretch. Bodies differ of course, but that is something to look for while exploring the pose in your practice.
yours in yoga,