Side Plank Pose is the first balancing pose to master after you become confident in the traditional Plank Pose. Known as Vasisthasana in Sanskrit, practicing this posture gives you great arm and core strength.
(Pronounced as "vah-sish-TAHS-anna)
Vasistha was an ancient Indian sage who wrote part of the Rig Veda, and he is the one who inspired this pose. Others in his time considered him like a king among the sages for his humility, patience and mastery over his mind.
Come into the basic plank position on your yoga mat as if you are about to do Downward Dog Pose. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart with your shoulders directly above your hands. Keep your arms and legs straight. Now bring your feet together with the balls of your feet pressing into the floor. Shift your weight onto your right hand. Turn your body to the right so that only your right hand and the outside edge of your right foot have contact with the mat. Stack your left leg on top of your right leg and rest your left hand on top of your left hip.
If you have turned to the right side correctly, then your right hand will now be slightly in front of your right shoulder. Keep your hips up so that your ankles, hips and neck remain in alignment with each other. Now your legs and torso should form a 45-degree angle with the floor.
Tuck your shoulder blades firmly into your back and expand your chest. Straighten your legs well, extending the legs through your heels. Do not point the toes. Engage your core muscles to keep your hips lifted and in line with the rest of your body.
Reach your left hand up toward the sky while keeping the left arm in line with your shoulders. Maintain an expanded chest. Gaze up at your left thumb if you can. Otherwise, you can look straight in front of you to keep the head in a more neutral position.
Hold this position for up to half a minute. Then bring your left arm down, rotate your body back into Plank Pose and rest in Downward Dog Pose, or Adho Mukha Svanasana. When you are ready, repeat this posture for the same amount of time on the other side.
It is common for the arms of beginners to shake a little when they try to balance. To add stability and train your muscles to feel the correct positioning, you can press the soles of your feet into a wall. Start by getting into Adho Mukha Svanasana with your heels only on the wall. Your weight stays on the balls of your feet on the mat. Then when you shift your body to the right and stack the other foot on top, press the soles of both feet into the wall. Make you sure you push through your heels firmly into the wall.
When you feel confident in the pose, then try the full variation. If you are balancing on your right side, then bend your left knee and grip your left big toe with your left hand. Wrap your left thumb and forefingers around your left big toe and grasp it tightly. Then exhale as you gradually straighten your left leg and point the sole of your left foot up toward the ceiling.
Once you have fully straightened your left leg, then your left arm will be straight as well. Turn your head and look up at your left hand. After you hold the pose for about half a minute, then release the raised leg and return to Plank Pose. You can rest in Child's Pose for a minute before repeating the pose on the other side, holding it for the same duration.
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