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Strengthening Yoga Poses

Upward Plank Pose

Purvottanasana counteracts the effects of Chaturanga by stretching the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and anterior deltoids.

Upward Plank Pose Basics:

Sanskrit: Purvottanasana (purr-vo-tahn-AHS-ah-nuh)

Pose type: Arm balance

Targets: Full body

Why we love it: “This pose activates every muscle in my body,” says Yoga Journal staff writer Ellen O’Brien. “For that reason, I used to dread it— and as a result, put way too much pressure and tension into my arms and shoulders. Once I learned how to stretch, expand (and breathe!) into it, I found myself enjoying it much more.”

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Pose benefits

Upward Plank Pose strengthens the arms, wrists and legs, while stretching the shoulders, chest and front ankles.

Upward Plank Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin seated in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your legs extended forward.
  2. Have your big toes touching and a small amount of space between your heels.
  3. Flex your ankles, drawing your toes back toward your knees.
  4. Press forward with your big toe mounds while continuing to pull back with the outer border of your foot.
  5. Observe how these foot actions impact your legs and ankles.
  6. Your inner thighs spin down, and your outer ankles firm into your midline.
  7. Start with your hands beside your hips, fingertips pointing forward.
  8. Maintaining this orientation, lean back slightly, and slide your hands back about 8 inches.
  9. On an inhalation, move your shoulder blades in and up, lifting and opening your chest from behind.
  10. On an exhalation, reach toward the floor with your big toe mounds, and lift your hips.
  11. Initially, keep your face parallel to the ceiling in order to refine the alignment before dropping your head back.
  12. Plug into the floor with your big toe mounds, spinning your inner thighs down while directing the flesh of your buttocks toward the backs of your knees.
  13. Pressing down with your hands, inflate your chest, lifting your thoracic spine toward your sternum and your sternum toward the ceiling.
  14. Once your upper back and chest are fully mobilized, allow your head to drop back, making sure the curve of your neck is a continuation of the curve of your upper back rather than a substitution.
  15. Use exhalations to press down with your feet and hands; use inhalations to lift your hips and chest.
  16. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then release back to the floor.

Beginner’s tip

Practice with a chair support: Sit near the front edge of the seat and wrap your hands around the back edge. Inhale to lift your pelvis, then extend each leg with an inhale.

Teaching Purvottanasana

  • Students can modify this pose by place their hands on two blocks. When a student uses blocks, the blocks extend the length of the student’s arms, making it easier to get the soles of the feet down towards the mat. If you’re advising a student who has wrist pain, make sure to slant blocks against a wall to decrease the angle of wrist flexion in this pose.
  • Yoga teacher Roger Coles says this is a great pose to insert into a a Chaturanga-heavy sequence, since it stretches the front of the body and strengthens the back of the body.

Upward Plank Variation

Woman does variation of Upward Plank Pose

Preparatory Poses

Marjaryasana

Bitilasana

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Plank Pose

Dolphin Plank Pose

Follow-up Poses

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Ananda Balasana

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