Upward Plank Pose (Purvottanasana) is an excellent heart opener and counter pose to the chest-strengthening Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana). Upward Plank Pose stretches the front side of the body from the head to the ankles.
In order to protect the body, especially tender joints and tendons near the neck and wrists, continue reading to learn about some common misalignments in Upward Plank Pose and how to fix them so that this pose can be safely incorporated in your practice:
Misalignment: Starting at the foundation, misaligned hand positioning and weight distribution impacts the structure of the pose. Some common misalignments include placing the fingers facing outward or placing all the weight on the wrists.
Fix: Start in Staff Pose (Dandasana) and place the hands slightly behind the hips. Point the fingers toward the toes and place weight evenly throughout both hands.
Yogi Tip: Beginners can use a chair or blocks to build strength. Place the hands on a chair or blocks to give the arms, chest, and shoulders a bit of a lift to help lift the hips and work the soles of the feet toward the floor.
Misalignment: It takes time to build core, back, and glute strength. In the beginning, it is common that the hips drop lower than in alignment with the shoulders and ankles.
Fix: Roll the inner thighs in, breathe the belly towards the spine and up, lift the hips as high as possible and keep the chin and chest about fist distance apart. In the beginning, bending the knees and lifting into reverse tabletop can be helpful.
In time, the body will become stronger and the hips will be able to stay lifted with the legs straight.
Misalignment: Often as a safety response, the shoulders reach toward the ears and try to protect the neck. However, overtime, intense shoulder tension leads to rounding of the spine and hinders the flow of breath.
Fix: Exhale and lengthen the shoulder blades together and down the spine to help correct alignment. In addition, lengthening the shoulder blades creates space in the head and neck and helps lift the chest.
Misalignment: It is hard work to reach the soles of the feet on the floor, often the feet are flexed or semi-flexed. This is unhelpful because it places weight on the heels and can allow the knees to hyperextend versus using the front side leg muscles to lift the body.
Fix: Bend the knees, if needed, to work the soles of the feet on the floor. As the muscles become stronger, the legs can naturally extend.
Yogi Tip: A chair underneath the hips helps lift the hips and relieve weight from the legs as foot flexibility is increased in time.
Misalignment: In order to look picture perfect, often the head is thrown back without consideration for the rest of the body’s alignment. The neck is a tender point in the body. Without considering the safety of the body, the neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be injured.
Fix: Keeping the chin about fist-distance from the chest protects the neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When the chest is lifted and open, and the shoulders are supporting the body, then the head can relax back.
It can be helpful to experiment keeping the head tucked as long as possible and naturally release the head back when it can no longer be tucked in.
Yogi Tip: Additional support with the head on a chair, block, or blanket on a chair can help build comfort with the pose.
Do you have any alignment tips or fixes for Upward Plank Pose? Please share them with us below!