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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Upward Plank Pose strengthens the arms, wrists and legs, while stretching the shoulders, chest and front ankles.
Upward Plank Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
- Begin seated in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your legs extended forward.
- Have your big toes touching and a small amount of space between your heels.
- Flex your ankles, drawing your toes back toward your knees.
- Press forward with your big toe mounds while continuing to pull back with the outer border of your foot.
- Observe how these foot actions impact your legs and ankles.
- Your inner thighs spin down, and your outer ankles firm into your midline.
- Start with your hands beside your hips, fingertips pointing forward.
- Maintaining this orientation, lean back slightly, and slide your hands back about 8 inches.
- On an inhalation, move your shoulder blades in and up, lifting and opening your chest from behind.
- On an exhalation, reach toward the floor with your big toe mounds, and lift your hips.
- Initially, keep your face parallel to the ceiling in order to refine the alignment before dropping your head back.
- 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.
- Pressing down with your hands, inflate your chest, lifting your thoracic spine toward your sternum and your sternum toward the ceiling.
- 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.
- Use exhalations to press down with your feet and hands; use inhalations to lift your hips and chest.
- Hold for 5–10 breaths, then release back to the floor.
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.
- 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.