Upward Plank Pose or Poorvottanasana is an intermediate back-bending yoga pose that builds strength and flexibility. The literal meaning of this asana (posture) is to stretch towards the east. However, this has nothing to do with stretching in the east direction. Poorvottanasana specifically refers to the flow of pranaic subtle energies in the “eastern” frontal side. Poorva = east + uttana = maximum stretch + asana = corporal position. This pose is pronounced as poorvah-uttanah-sanah.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
This asana must be performed on an empty stomach. You must have your meals at least four to six hours before you practice yoga. You must also make sure that your bowels are empty. Do not practice Purvottanasana if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, a shoulder injury, or wrist injury. Purvottanasana requires a good amount of strength to be performed correctly. If you do not yet have the strength to do the pose in proper alignment, practice Reverse Table Pose (Ardha Purvottanasana) or supported Reverse Table until you can support your full bodyweight correctly.
How To Do The Poorvottanasana : Step-by-Step Instructions
- Sit up with the legs stretched out straight in front of you, keeping the feet together and the spine erect. .
- Place the palms on the floor around the waist or at shoulder level, fingertips pointing away from you. Do not bend the arms. .
- Lean back and support the weight of your body with your hands. .
- Breathing in, raise the pelvis up, keeping the whole body straight. .
- Keep your knees straight and bring the feet flat to the floor. Place the toes on the ground and the sole will then tend to be on the ground. Let the head fall back towards the floor. .
- Hold the pose and continue breathing. .
- As you exhale, come back to a sitting position and relax. .
- Repeat the posture with your fingers pointing in the opposite direction.
Practicing Purvottanasana can be invigorating and uplifting for your mind and body when practiced correctly. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your neck long. If you feel any compression in your neck, tuck your chin slightly and do not let your head drop all the way back.
- Keep your upper back strongly engaged to help lift your body.
- If your shoulders, arms, or wrists feel fatigued, you will lose the integrity of the pose and can get injured. Ease up and practice Reverse Table Pose (Ardha Purvottanasana) instead.
- Do not collapse into your shoulders. Lengthen your spine and your arms. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your neck long. Make sure your upper back and shoulder blades are working firmly throughout the pose.
- Keep your shoulders above your wrists. Ask your teacher or a friend to check your alignment if you are unsure.
- Do not over-use the muscles of your back body (back torso, shoulder blades, hamstrings, glutes) to shove yourself into the pose. Utilize the muscles of your front body (chest, abdomen, quadriceps) with equal effort as those of your back body. Imagine your body as one compact force, both sides working equally and together.
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.
Benefits of The Upward Plank Pose
- It strengthens the wrists, arms, shoulders, back, and spine.
- It can stretches the legs and hips.
- It improves the respiratory function.
- It stretches the intestines and abdominal organs.
- It can stimulates the thyroid gland
Modifications & Variations
Try these simple changes to find a variation that is suitable for you:
- If you cannot yet support your bodyweight with your legs straight, practice Reverse Table Pose (Ardha Purvottanasana). Attempting to force your body into Purvottanasana can quickly lead to injury.
- More advanced students can come into One-Legged Upward Plank Pose (Eka Pada Purvottanasana) by lifting one foot off the floor. Reach through the ball of the foot, and lift the entire leg up toward the ceiling. Then lower your foot and repeat with the other leg.
- For a deeper internal experience in the pose, bring your gaze to your “third eye” — the space between your eyebrows — and concentrate on your breath.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Practicing Purvottanasana can be a great way to counteract forward bends, like Paschimottanasana, and strength-building poses, like Chaturanga. It can also re-balance your body after a long day of working at a computer, driving, and other forward-facing actions that can cause slouching and rounded spines. Opening up the whole front side of the body is invigorating, but doing so requires as much courage and inner strength as it does physical strength.