The crab is also known as the ‘reverse tabletop poses. Although it is not mentioned in the earliest classical Hatha yoga books, it is a relatively new modification of the ‘Purvottanasa’ for beginners who are looking for an easy backbend that can also strengthen the arms and legs.
When you begin your yoga journey, the most important thing is to take it slow and let your body relax so you can hold a particular pose for a long time. The crab pose is ideal and preparatory pose for not just more advanced ones but also brings deep relaxation to the body.
Let us take a look at this pose in detail and how to practice it:
The Basics of Crab Pose:
Known as ‘Ardha Purvottanasana’ in Sanskrit, the crab pose is ideal for beginners and often practiced as a preparatory pose for backbends such as the wheel. It can also be practiced as a follow-up pose for forward folds such as the ‘janu sirsasana’.
‘Purva’ in Sanskrit means ‘east’ and this pose helps in the flow of prana specifically to one’s frontal east.
If you feel comfortable holding this pose for a long time, you can graduate to the upward plank pose. For those looking for modifications, you can place yoga blocks on the floor and place your palms or feet on them to elevate the body even higher.
The crab pose targets not only the limbs but also helps develop core strength in the body. It helps create a sense of balance and can greatly improve posture in the long run.
The Benefits of Practicing Crab Pose:
The crab pose strengthens the wrists and ankles. If you are looking to be able to do the crow or crane pose one day, this is an ideal pose to work on with relatively weak wrists. It improves the movement of the shoulders and helps expand the chest. Thus, it not only activates your ‘Anahata’ (heart) chakra but can also help improve the functions of your respiratory organs.
When practicing forward bending poses, the body can often feel tired and fatigued. The crab pose can help alleviate some of the stress caused to the body and help you relax.
How To Practice Crab Pose:
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place your palms on the floor beside your hips, with your fingers pointing in the direction of your feet.
- Bend your knees and place your heels and the soles of your feet on the floor.
- Shift the pressure of your body to your hands and feet.
- As you exhale, lift your body off the floor.
- Your arms should be straight and perpendicular to the floor from the wrists to the shoulders.
- Stretch your neck and throw your head back as far as possible.
- Stay in this position for a minute, breathe normally.
- As you exhale, bend your elbows and lower your body to the ground and relax.
- Practice three rounds and continue to hold the position for longer periods of time as you become more comfortable.
- Follow it up by practicing a forward stretch or fold, or a relaxation pose such as the corpse pose (Savasana).
Be mindful of the direction of your wrists. As mentioned, your fingers should point towards your toes and not away from them. This is done to prevent injury and make sure that your wrists do not feel the excessive strain.
Another mistake practitioners often make is to take deep breaths when they are in this pose. Since your chest is already expanded, there is no need to breathe deeply. Make sure your breaths are normal and not forced.
Lastly, remember to close your eyes once you have titled your head back. This will not only help you relax but will also keep you from feeling disoriented in any way.
Do not worry if you are unable to hold the pose for a long time. Remember to be gentle with your body. If you think your wrists are weak, then you can warm them up before practice with a few rounds of wrist rotation.
If you find it difficult to raise your body using your wrists and feet, you can place something soft like a cushion or folded blanket under them to help you lift yourself up.
Since your entire body is stretched in this pose, it is best to practice this early in your practice so you can reap the benefits of it during your asana flow.
Some Cautions for the Crab Pose:
Since the entire body is supported by the hands and legs, those with wrist or knee injuries should not practice this pose. For those with a neck injury, practice the pose only under the guided supervision of a teacher.
If you have weak knees, it is advisable that you avoid this pose for practice a few knee strengthening poses before you practice the crab pose.
As a general rule for backbends, if you have any spine injury then you should not practice this or warm-up extensively before attempting the crab pose.
Variations of the Crab Pose:
If you are able to hold the pose comfortably, then you can straighten your legs in front of you instead of keeping your knees bent. Keep your legs together and keep your elbows and knees tight. This is known as the ‘Purvottanasana’ or the upward plank pose. The benefits and contra-indications of the pose are the same as that of the crab pose.
For those unable to support themselves in the crab pose at all, break it down into two parts. At first, you bend your knees and place your legs near your hips. Try to raise your trunk slightly and then lift your body using your arms. You can also try it the other way around, depending on what you are more comfortable with.