Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Pose of the Month: Side Plank May 29, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 6:45 pm
Tags: ,
Side Plank - Back View, Unmodified
Side Plank - Back View, Knee DroppedSide Plank - Back View, Foot Planted
Pose Name:Side Plank

Sanskrit Name:

Vasisthasana

Steps:

  1. Begin in downward-facing dog. Shift your weight forward into plank pose.
  2. Place your left hand directly under your face.
  3. Rotate the left foot to press the outside edge of the foot against the floor, and stack the right foot on top of the left.
  4. If this version of the pose is too challenging, there are two variations you can try. Either variation will add stability to the pose.
    • You can drop the left knee to the ground and keep the right leg extended with the inside edge of the right foot on the floor.
    • You could also keep the left leg extended, but bend the right leg and plant the right foot on the floor in front of you.
  5. Once the feet are settled, open your body to the right and extend the right arm straight up overhead, supporting yourself just on the left hand and left foot (or variation as appropriate).
  6. Keep the body straight. Try to make the body one long straight line from the outside edge of the foot to the top of the head. Engage your core muscles to hold yourself up.
  7. Hold the pose and focus on your breath.
  8. To come out of the pose, drop both knees to the mat. Press back into either downward dog or child’s pose if you need a rest.
  9. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Benefits:

Side plank greatly strengthens the arms and core muscles. It’s also helpful for improving balance.

Counterindications:

Those with wrist problems may want to avoid this pose, as it places a lot of pressure on the wrist; working with dolphin pose and dolphin plank, or just resting in child’s pose, may be good alternatives for these students.

My Experience with Side Plank:

Side plank has been challenging for me for some of the same reasons that regular plank is challenging: I have to rely on my arm strength to hold me up. However, side plank is even worse because in this pose I have only two points of contact with the ground (one hand and one foot, instead of both hands and both feet). So in addition to putting pressure on my wrists and wracking my weak arm muscles, side plank requires me to balance precariously on an arm that I know to be untrustworthy. It’s no wonder that side plank is a constant struggle for me. When I try to practice the pose without dropping a knee, my arm shakes and I can rarely hold the pose for more than a few breaths. Even with dropping the knee, the pose requires a strong conscious effort to focus on my breath and keep my breathing slow and even.

With side plank, I don’t feel the disappointment and frustration that I feel when practicing regular plank. Regular plank seems like it should be achievable but stays just beyond my reach, while attaining a solid side plank is clearly pretty far down the road for me. It’ll be a long time before side plank will be a pose where I can find the line between challenge and ease.

Right now, side plank is all work. I try to practice the pose dynamically, dropping a leg down when I need to rest and raising it up again when I feel able. I learned a different modification at an anusara studio last summer – rather than dropping the bottom knee, now I can try bending the top leg and planting the foot out in front, which requires more work than having the knee down but still adds stability. Having a few different techniques for modifying the pose gives me more confidence that I can eventually conquer it.

Side Plank - Front View

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5 Responses to “Pose of the Month: Side Plank”

  1. birdmaddgirl Says:

    the foot forward is the modification i’m familiar with. the odd thing is that from these photos, you look more at ease in full side plank than in either modification!

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      I think it must be because both modifications look as though they’re the next step to something else (like, foot forward looks like I’m stepping forward to stand up out of the pose). When F was taking these pictures and I was holding the full pose, I was all, “Would you hurry up?!” My arm was shaking like whoa.


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