Upward Plank Pose, Purvottanasana, (purr-vo-tahn-AH-suh-nuh)
purva (east) + ut tan (intense stretch) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Inclined Plank Pose, Inverted Plank
Stretch through your front body and open your chest up to the sky in Upward Plank Pose.
Upward Plank Pose Fundamentals
Open and strengthen your whole body with this empowering back-bending pose.
The Sanskrit name Purvottanasana means “Intense East Stretch”. The name refers to the traditional way of practice in India which was always towards the East.
However, the symbology of “east” can be taken further. In Hindusm, the east represents the front of your body and the energy in your frontal side. Just like the sun rises every morning in the east – your “east side” is lifting towards the sky in Upward Plank.
The east also symbolizes new beginnings and our potential, which is one of the intentions you can set when you’re practicing the pose.
By opening your heart high, you are expanding your body, but you can also expand your energy. Use the challenge of the position to build the confidence and power needed to move past your fears and comfort zones.
Physically, Upward Plank works as the ideal counter pose for anyone who goes through a lot of Vinyasas or practices Chaturanga and Plank Pose regularly. Since these poses develop strong chest and shoulders, it is important to counter that with back strength in order to avoid muscle imbalance.
By pairing Chaturanga with Upward Plank, you will develop the same amount of strength and flexibility in both sides of your body, which will prevent injury and correct your posture.
As a back-bend, this pose also counteracts forward bends and the effects of prolonged sitting.
Upward Plank Pose & Energetics
In this way, it can become a part of any practice dedicated to building our internal confidence and power, but also compassion, empathy, and love towards others.
Upward Plank Pose Benefits
- Builds strength in the back side of the body, including the back of the shoulders, spine, back muscles, hamstrings, and shins.
- Opens and lengthens the chest, front of the shoulders, shins, quadriceps, and abdomen.
- Stimulates and may improve the functioning of the thyroid gland, adrenal gland, and heart.
- By working your shoulders in a different manner than other poses, it may reduce slouching and rounded shoulders, improving your overall posture.
- Opening the chest muscles may help improve the function of the respiratory system.
- Stimulates the internal organs, particularly the liver, spleen, and kidneys.
- By improving heart function and boosting blood circulation, Upward Plank may boost brain function and release anxiety and stress.
How To Do Upward Plank Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Sit on the floor with your arms by your sides and your legs extended in front of you, in Staff Pose.
2. Bring your palms slightly behind your hips and face your fingertips towards your feet.
3. Keep your big toes together and your heels slightly apart. Flex your feet.
4. Draw your shoulder blades towards each other and open your heart. Now point your toes, so the big toes are touching the ground.
5. Press your palms and feet firmly into the ground and lift your hips off the ground.
6. If you feel comfortable, you can slightly drop your head back.
7. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths, or around 30 seconds, then release.
Tips And Tricks:
- If you lack the flexibility to enter the full expression of the pose, you can keep your hands on a chair or two blocks. Elevating your hands will make it much easier to extend your toes on the ground.
- If you feel any strain in your neck, don’t drop your head. Instead, keep the neck active and slightly tuck your chin.
- Stay active in your back to lift your upper body.
- Keep your arms and back long and your shoulders lifted.
- Your shoulders should be directly above your wrists. You can use a mirror or ask a friend to check you if you’re not sure that you’re in proper alignment.
- Manage your weight on your entire palms and spread your fingers wide.
Upward Plank Pose Variation:
Upward Plank Pose Variation: Reverse Table Top Pose
If Upward Plank is too challenging, you can always replace it with Reverse Table Top Pose.
Begin in Staff Pose and bend your knees, moving the feet closer to the body. Place your hands slightly behind the hips and press them into the ground. Lift your hips and chest, so your torso is parallel to the ground. Tuck your chin slightly to maintain a neutral neck position.
Upward Plank Pose Variation: Dynamic Upward Plank Pose
This pose is sometimes also done dynamically, to aid the students to build more strength. To perform the dynamic version, swing from Staff Pose to Upward Plank several times, but keep the hips off the ground in Staff Pose.
Upward Plank Pose Variation: One-Legged Upward Plank Pose
This advanced variation is appropriate for those who can hold Upward Plank Pose for a while. After setting yourself up in the pose, lift one foot off the floor and point the toes. Hold for a while, then release and lift the other leg up.
Only perform this variation if you’re able to hold it with proper alignment – your spine should still be long and your hips should be stacked.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Throwing The Head Back Too Much. Be careful when dropping the head back, and keep your neck engaged – don’t forcefully drop it back. This will prevent any injury to the spine. If dropping the head isn’t comfortable, keep your chin slightly tucked.
Hips Dropping. If you’re not able to keep your hips in the same alignment with your spine, practice the Reverse Plank Position to build more strength in the glutes, back, and core. Rolling your thighs inwards and engaging your lower abdomen may also help keep your hips lifted.
Injury In the Wrists or Shoulders
Don’t practice the pose if you have recently had a shoulder or wrist injury. Also, avoid it if you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Reverse Table Pose
For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.
Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.