Purvottanasana means intense eastward facing stretch. As the sun “rises in the east and sets in the west,” the east is known as the direction of new beginnings and budding potential. In Upward Plank Pose, we draw on the strength of the core and leg muscles, as well as the support of the shoulders beneath the heart.
Note: if you are a beginner struggling with Purvottanasana, practice your posture with the support of a chair. Sit near the front edge of the seat and wrap your hands around the back edge. Inhale as you lift your pelvis, then straighten each leg with an inhale.
Getting Into Upward Plank Pose:
Start in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Place your hands behind your hips with the tips of your fingers right behind your buttocks. Either point your fingers towards your body, which is more common, or away from your body. If you point them towards your body, your shoulders will be less open, but it’s a great stretch for your wrist flexors. If you have limited range of motion of the wrist, this posture may hurt and is not recommended.
If you point your fingers away from your body, your shoulders will be more open and will allow a greater stretch in your chest, but it is more likely for your elbow to hyperextend. If you have trouble with hyperextension in your elbows, this posture may be uncomfortable for you. As you move into Purvottanasana, you could have someone press the outside of your arms inward to stabilize your elbows.
Now, keep your legs extended along the mat, or, if you need to modify, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Exhale and lift your bottom off the floor, pressing your hips upward. As you come into position, push through your thumbs and big toes. Straighten your legs one at a time and avoid hardening your buttocks. Ideally, your torso should be parallel to the floor, but it can take some time. Support the lift of your chest by firming your shoulder blades against your back.
As you move into posture, you will want to keep your neck elongated (you will be fighting gravity from pulling your head down). When you’re comfortable in Purvottanasana, you will want to keep a slight chin tuck as you lower the crown of your head towards the floor. You don’t want to feel any compression in your spine as you do this. Relax and breathe steadily, holding posture for 30 seconds. As you exhale, sit back down in Dandasana.
Benefits of Upward Plank Pose:
- Strengthens your triceps, wrists, back, and legs
- Stretches your shoulders, chest, and front ankles
- Frees your mind
- Helps keep you open to new possibilities