The Upward Plank Pose, also known as Purvottanasana in Sanskrit, is a powerful and invigorating yoga pose that demands strength, flexibility, and balance. This pose is a part of the traditional seated forward bend series in Ashtanga yoga and is often practiced as a counter-pose to forward bends.
The pose begins from a seated position with legs extended in front. The practitioner then places their hands behind them, lifts their hips off the ground, and extends their chest upward, creating a strong and straight line from the head to the heels. This pose not only strengthens the arms, wrists, and legs, but also opens up the chest and shoulders, promoting better posture and respiratory function.
Practicing the Upward Plank Pose should be done under the supervision of a certified yoga instructor, as it can be quite challenging and requires correct alignment and technique to prevent injury. It’s also important to listen to your body and not push beyond your limits, as this pose requires a significant amount of strength and flexibility.
|Sanskrit Name and Pronunciation||Purvottanasana (pur-voh-tahn-AH-sah-nah)|
|Pose Type||Backbend, Core, Arm Balance|
How to Do the Upward Plank Pose
- Start in a seated position (Dandasana) with your legs extended in front of you and your hands resting by your sides.
- Place your hands behind your hips, about six to eight inches away, with your fingers pointing towards your feet.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Make sure they are hip distance apart.
- Press your hands and feet into the floor and lift your hips towards the ceiling. Try to bring your body into a straight line, similar to a reverse table-top position.
- If you feel comfortable, straighten your legs one at a time, keeping your hips lifted. Your toes should be pointing towards the floor.
- Lift your chest and allow your head to fall back gently, opening up your throat. Ensure your shoulder blades are relaxed and your core is engaged.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths, keeping your body as straight as possible.
- To exit the pose, gently lower your hips back to the floor and return to the seated position.
- Take a few deep breaths in this position before repeating the pose if desired.
|Upper Body:||Deltoids, Rotator Cuffs, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Major, Biceps, Triceps|
|Core:||Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Transverse Abdominis|
|Back:||Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids|
|Glutes:||Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus|
|Legs:||Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Adductors, Gastrocnemius, Soleus|
While there are many research-backed mental and physical benefits of yoga, there are few — if any — official studies on the Upward Plank Pose. However, it’s generally believed that practicing the Upward Plank Pose provides several health benefits.
The Upward Plank Pose requires flexibility in the shoulders, wrists, and ankles. Regular practice of this pose can help increase flexibility in these areas over time.
The Upward Plank Pose requires a significant amount of upper body and core strength to hold the pose. Practicing this pose can help build strength in the arms, shoulders, and core muscles.
The Upward Plank Pose involves balancing on the hands and feet, which can help improve balance and coordination.
Opens the Chest and Shoulders
The upward lift aspect of this pose helps to open the chest and shoulders, which can help improve posture and breathing.
The Upward Plank Pose requires focus, balance, and strength, which can help calm the mind and promote relaxation.
Drawbacks and Risks
The Upward Plank Pose, while beneficial for building strength and flexibility, also comes with its own set of risks and drawbacks if not performed correctly.
Wrists. Similar to the Wild Thing pose, the Upward Plank Pose also involves balancing on the hands, which can put a significant amount of pressure on the wrists. If not aligned properly, this can lead to strain or injury in the wrist joint. It’s crucial to keep the wrists in a neutral position and avoid overextending them.
Shoulders. The Upward Plank Pose requires a good amount of shoulder strength and stability. If the shoulders are not strong enough or not aligned properly, there is a risk of injury to the shoulder muscles and the shoulder girdle, which includes the clavicle and scapula bones.
Lower Back. This pose involves a backbend, which can put strain on the lower back if not performed with proper alignment. It’s important to keep the core engaged and the lower back extended, rather than rounded, to avoid strain or injury.
Hips. The Upward Plank Pose requires lifting the hips off the ground, which can put strain on the hip joints if not performed correctly. It’s important to engage the core and glutes to support the hips and avoid injury.
Neck. If the neck is not kept in a neutral position, there is a risk of straining the neck muscles. It’s important to keep the gaze forward and avoid dropping the head back too far.
If you experience discomfort or pain while practicing this pose, stop immediately, modify it, or come out of it. It’s also important to warm up properly before attempting this pose and gradually build up to its full expression. Always practice under the guidance of a qualified instructor.
Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when practicing the Upward Plank Pose.
- Not Warming Up. Similar to the Wild Thing pose, it’s crucial to warm up before attempting the Upward Plank Pose to prevent injury. This can include yoga practices such as sun salutations, cat-cow stretches, and other poses that help warm the shoulders, back, and core muscles.
- Sinking the Hips. In the Upward Plank Pose, it’s important to keep the hips lifted and aligned with the rest of the body. Sinking the hips can put unnecessary strain on the lower back and hamper the effectiveness of the pose.
- Hyperextending the Wrists. The Upward Plank Pose involves balancing on both hands, which can put a strain on the wrist joints if not performed with proper alignment. It’s important to keep the wrists neutral and avoid hyperextending the joints.
- Misaligning the Shoulders. In the Upward Plank Pose, the shoulders should be stacked directly above the wrists. Misalignment can lead to shoulder strain or injury.
- Not Engaging the Core. The Upward Plank Pose is a full-body pose that requires engagement of the core muscles. Not engaging the core can lead to improper alignment and potential strain on the lower back.
- Not Using Props. If you’re new to the Upward Plank Pose or have limited flexibility or strength, it can be helpful to use props such as blocks or blankets to support the body and help you find proper alignment.
Modifications and Variations
If you’re new to the Upward Plank Pose or have limited flexibility or strength, several modifications can help you build up to the full expression of the pose. Here are some modifications to try:
If you’re having trouble lifting your body off the ground or maintaining the pose, you can use props such as blocks or blankets to support your body and help you find proper alignment. Place the blocks or blankets under your hands or feet to help lift your body off the ground.
Practice on Your Knees
If you have trouble holding the pose with straight legs, you can try practicing on your knees. Sit on your heels, place your hands behind you on the ground, and lift your hips, creating a bridge with your body. This modification can help you build strength and stability in the pose.
Practice with a Wall
If you’re having trouble finding balance in the Upward Plank pose, try practicing with a wall for support. Place your hands on the wall and lift your body off the ground, maintaining a straight line from your head to your knees. This modification can help you find stability and build confidence in the pose.
Practice the Bridge Pose
This pose can help stretch and strengthen the back muscles, preparing you for the Upward Plank pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the floor, pressing your feet and arms into the floor. Hold for a few breaths, then lower your hips to the floor. Repeat a few times to build strength and flexibility.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.