Jenny has been backpacking since 1997 and teaching yoga since…
Parivá¹›tta and viparÄ«ta – it took me long enough to remember how to spell them let alone learn the difference between the two. But I’ve finally got it (I think) – and there is a simple way to remember which is which, and when you might want to use them. Fingers crossed and here we go!
You have probably seen or heard the word parivá¹›tta used with postures such as trikoá¹‡Äsana (triangle) and parÅ›vakoá¹‡Äsana (side angle). ParivÅ—tta means ‘revolved’ or ‘turned around’ (from the same verbal root as the vá¹›tti – those pesky ‘turnings’ of the mind (citta) that Patañjali goes on about), so we add it to these postures to create the revolved version of them – parivá¹›tta trikoá¹‡Äsana (revolved triangle) and parivá¹›tta parÅ›vakoá¹‡Äsana (revolved side angle pose). What does ‘revolve’ mean? ‘To move, roll, or turn around a central point’ (Cambridge Online Dictionary) – so here we are talking about a twist. But I have heard many yoga teachers translate these postures as ‘reverse triangle’ and ‘reverse side-angle pose’. Which is technically correct?
The confusion might be with postures such as viparÄ«ta vÄ«rabhadrÄsana II (reverse warrior II). ViparÄ«ta is an adjective meaning reverse, opposite or inverse, so we see it with seemingly unrelated postures such as viparÄ«ta karaá¹‡Ä« (legs up wall pose or ‘inverted doing’ Äsana if we translate directly) and viparÄ«ta vÄ«rabhadrÄsana II (reverse warrior II). You might not know that there is also a viparÄ«ta Å›alabhÄsana (inverted locust pose) – well worth checking out and unlikely to be part of my daily practice for the foreseeable future!
So what is the difference between ‘revolved’ and ‘reverse’ and will this help us to figure it all out? While revolved implies a twist, some form of turning of the spine, doing something in reverse is about doing it backwards or in the opposite direction to normal, which may well not involve turning at all. If you think about reverse warrior II, for example, it is far more about ‘reversing’ the upper body alignment than it is about twisting or revolving. When we think of revolved trikoá¹‡Äsana (triangle), on the other hand, it is far more a twisting posture than it is ‘in reverse’. And if none of that helps, when in doubt think V for viparÄ«ta plus V for vÄ«rabhadrÄsana equals reverse for reverse or backwards warrior – then you know that parivá¹›tta (revolved) refers to the other, twisting, postures.
While we’re here, what about that tricky little ‘i’ in parivá¹›tta? Where does it go and why aren’t there two of them? The á¹› in the ‘vá¹›’ of parivá¹›tta is like the á¹› in the vá¹› of vá¹›ká¹£Äsana. It is called a ‘vocalic r’, and is usually transliterated as an ‘r’ with a dot underneath it. The vocalic ‘r’ (á¹›) is most easily pronounced like an ‘r’ with a very short vowel after it, which means it simply doesn’t need an ’i’. So if you are wondering where to put the ‘i’ in parivá¹›tta, think vá¹›ká¹£Äsana (or cittavá¹›tti) and you will remember to add it before the ‘vr’.
By the way, what about the lying twist usually known as jaá¹hara parivartanÄsana, also sometimes called jaá¹hara parivá¹›tti? Here we end up in the realms of grammar… parivá¹›tti is a noun meaning ‘a turning’ (like a stronger vá¹›tti), so that jaá¹hara parivá¹›tti can be loosely translated as ‘the turning of the stomach’. Parivarta is the present participle of the verb root parivá¹›t – so functions more like an adjective qualifying the word ‘Äsana’ rather than the word jaá¹hara – so, loosely, the ‘turning posture of the stomach’. A distinction without a difference? Probably…
Ultimately, ‘who cares if it is revolved or reverse, where the ‘i’ goes in parivá¹›tta, or whether it is jaá¹hara parivá¹›tti or jaá¹hara parivartanÄsana?’ I can hear some of you thinking? Well, I kind of agree. The world will more than likely continue to turn (or revolve) even if I get my revolves and reverses around the wrong way. And don’t worry if you have been getting this mixed up too – you are certainly not the only one. Trust me, it could be worse. A ‘good friend’ of mine might have messed up a few of these in cold hard print in a published book! Fortunately yoga teaches us that none of us is perfect, so I’m breathing through it, treating it as a lesson in humility and letting it go. Phew!
This article is the fifth in a series of articles considering Sanskrit faux pas. Check out the first three – It’s not the crow!, VÄ«rabhadra doesn’t mean warrior, Do you know how to pronounce haá¹ha and Astanga, siva, cakras and caturaá¹…ga: what about the ‘h’?
Graham is a London based yoga teacher, teacher trainer, occasional academic, and Sanskrit geek.