Upward Facing Plank - Purvottanasana

Purvottanasana - Upward Facing Plank
Purvottanasana - Upward Facing Plank. Nicholas J Reid/Photodisc/Getty Images

Also Known As: Table-top

Type of Pose: Arm Balance

Benefits: Opens the chest, stretches the shoulders, wrists and ankles, strengthens the arms, legs and back.

Planks and their variations are all the rage for core strength training. For a little variety, throw in some side planks and this pose, an upward facing plank. The straight legged version of this pose provides a pretty intense stretch for the whole front of your body.

You may be surprised at how challenging it is to reach the balls of your feet to the floor. The more you can lift your chest, the easier this will be. Purvottanasana really gets into some parts of your body that other yoga poses neglect, which is why it's such a good addition to your practice. The tabletop variation with bent knees is more accessible and will still do a lot for your chest and back. 

Instructions:

1. Begin seated on your mat with your legs outstretched in staff pose

2. Place your palms flat on the mat under your shoulders. Your fingers should be facing the front of your mat.

3. Push into your hands to straighten your arms as you firm your legs and lift your butt off the floor. Do not lock your elbows. Keep them microbent.

4. Your legs stay straight. Reach the balls of your feet toward the floor. Ideally, the entire soles of your feet will be flat on the floor. 

5. Lift your hips to keep the front of your body straight.

Press into your palms and roll your shoulder blades onto your back to open your chest and keep your shoulders away from your ears.

6. You may let your head drop back or keep the chin tucked in, whichever is more comfortable.

7. Try to hold your pose for five deep inhales and exhales. Then release your butt to the floor on an exhalation.

Shake your wrists out. 

Beginners' Tips:

Try the table-top version of the pose, which is done with the knees bent.

1. While sitting in staff pose, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet flat onto your mat about 6-8 inches in front of your butt. (This will vary depending on your size.)

2. Keep the knees bent as you push into your hands and feet to lift your hips toward the ceiling. The idea is to make a flat table-top with your body from shoulder to knee.

3. The shoulders should be over your wrists and the knees over your ankles. Adjust your feet if necessary to make this happen.

4. You can let your head hang back or keep you neck in line with your spine by tucking your chin.

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