Poses come and go from my repertoire without my even realizing it. Then one day a pose will pop back into my hard and I’ll remember that I used to teach it all the time. And so I begin teaching it again.
Tabletop and Purvottanasana have both returned to my playlist with an additional variation called crab walking. If I had to guess the first yoga class I taught included the two forward bends followed by purvottanasana from the ashtanga series.
When it comes to intense experiences, opening my calves to allow for the full extension of the feet to the floor in this pose, ranks among the top. For a good month or six weeks when I began doing ashtanga and purvottanasana my calves would seize up or cramp badly enough that I had to stop the pose. Once I worked through this it never returned with the same intensity. But the first time I do it after a hiatus the calves let me know that they don’t like to be ignored.
The calf action that I am talking about is the work of the soleus and gastrocnemius pointing, or plantar flexing, the foot. Purvottanasana also tones the inner thighs and hamstrings in the attempt to get the inner foot to the floor in the full pose.
In the upper body it opens the chest stretching the pectoral muscles that are always in dire need of stretching, The deltoids are also stretching while the triceps get stronger as the arms straighten.
These days I teach Purvottanasana as an option after doing Tabletop twice with the fingers turned in in one version and out in the other. Without the straight legs I am emphasizing the stretch of the upper chest and also the tone of the core that might allow the neck to lengthen the ears into a line with the shoulders. And then we crab walk.
A tendency in tabletop that I am always warning against is for the knees to open wide of the ankles and the weight of the feet to fall towards the outside.
- Sit with your knees bent and the feet flat to the floor. Place the hands about six inches behind you with the fingers facing in the direction of your hips. Feel free to change the direction of the hands to feel the difference in the work and stretch.
- Have your feet parallel and hip distance apart with the knees aligned over the ankle.
- Lift the hips pressing down through the hands and feet.
- Don’t hyperextend your elbows and keep the knees aligned over the ankles.
- Sit with your legs extended in front of you and the hands about six inches behind you. The classic pose has the fingers pointing forward but you can try to do both.
- Press down through your hands and heels and lift your hips up toward the ceiling.
- Spread the collar bones wide apart and extend your legs trying to point your feet flat to the floor.
- The inner thighs need to rotate in and down to help the inner foot and mound of the big toe reach the floor.
- In the classic version of the pose the head is released backwards which can stretch the throat. I like to work on toning the core to bring some length into the back of the neck.
- Come to Tabletop.
- Walk forward alternating arms and legs until you walk off your mat with both feet.
- Walk backwards until both hands are off the mat behind you.
- Return to your starting position.