(Side Plank Pose)
Vasistha = “most excellent, best, richest.”
This powerful yoga pose can be practiced as a building-block to more advanced arm balances. Plank Yoga Pose is a energizer to the mind-body stamina, and a refreshing exercise for greater ease of respiration and inspiration!
Strengthens the arms, belly, and legs
Stretches and strengthens the wrists
Stretches the backs of the legs (in the full version described below)
Improves sense of balance
Side Plank focuses the mind, leading to deeper concentration and balance.
It also tones and strengthens the entire length of the body, especially the core muscles.
Students with serious wrist, elbow, or shoulder injuries should avoid this pose.
Performing the Asana
From Plank Yoga Pose, shift onto the outside edge of your left foot, and stack your right foot on top of the left. Now swing your right hand onto your right hip, turn your torso to the right as you do, and support the weight of your body on the outer left foot and left hand.
Make sure that the supporting hand isn’t directly below its shoulder; position the hand slightly in front of its shoulder, so the supporting arm is angled a bit relative to the floor. Straighten the arm by firming the triceps muscle, and press the base of the index finger firmly against the floor.
Firm the scapulas and sacrum against the back torso. Strengthen the thighs, and press through the heels toward the floor. Align your entire body into one long diagonal line from the heels to the crown.
If you'd like you can stretch the top arm toward the ceiling, parallel to the line of the shoulders. Keep the head in a neutral position, or turn it to gaze up at the top hand.
Stay in this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Come back to Adho Mukha Svanasana, take a few breaths, and repeat to the right side for the same length of time. Then return to Adho Mukha Svanasana for a few more breaths, and finally release into Balasana .
Modify Your Practice
In order to increase the strength and stability of this pose, it’s helpful to work it with your soles pressing against a wall. Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana with your heels up on a wall, the balls of your feet on the floor. When you shift onto the outside of your left foot, press the sole against the wall. Similarly, when you stack your right foot on top of the left, press that sole to the wall. Then in the pose, push your heels actively into the wall.
The full version of this pose, as taught by B. K. S. Iyengar, raises the top leg perpendicular to the floor. Perform the modified version as described above, either supported or unsupported by the wall. Exhale, bend the top knee, and draw the thigh into the torso. Reach inside the bent leg and use the index and middle fingers of the top hand to grab the big toe. Secure these fingers by wrapping them with the thumb. With an inhalation, stretch the leg perpendicularly toward the ceiling. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release the grip on the toe, and return the top foot to its original position. Repeat on the second side.
Complimentary Yoga Poses
Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downwards Facing Dog
Ardha Chandrasana - Half Moon Balance
Prasarita Padottanasana - - Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend
Supta Padangusthasana - Reclining Big Toe Stretch
Supta Virasana - Reclining Hero Stretch
Tips for Beginners
Beginners often have a difficult time sustaining this pose, even with the soles pressed to a wall. Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana with your heels up on a wall. Measure the distance between your right foot and right hand, then step the foot halfway to the hand. Keep the right foot on the floor for support and turn the toes out to the right. Then shift onto the outside of the left foot, press the sole against the wall, and turn onto the left hand as described above. In this position the bent leg will provide some extra support. Step back to Adho Mukha Svanasana at the end of your stay, then repeat to the other side.