Vasisthasana = “best, most excellent posture”
Vasisthansana or “Side Plank Pose” is a very rich core exercise indeed. As summer approaches and we want to look our “bikini” best, time to add Side Plank to your routine.
Most summer athletic sports require a strong core and flexible side waist. Think, reaching for a football pass, keeping your balance on your mountain bike while ripping up a tricky trail, or max length for free style swim. Side Plank will strengthen your Serratius (deep side muscles) and Latissimus Dorsi (the big group of outer corset muscles that span from your shoulder blades and wrap around your side waist to pelvic region). This pose will also strengthen wrists, shoulders, arms and legs, while creating flexibility in your hips. I will give modifications for those with injury in the arms.
- Start in Down Dog and tune into your breath. Once your breath is steady and engaged, then start your practice. This will help you stay focused.
- Roll forward to Plank Pose
- Move your right hand underneath your nose on the mat, and spread your fingers wide like a pancake. IF you have injury in any part of your arm, please drop your bottom knee on the floor to support your body weight from here on out.
- Carefully roll to the side, opening hips and stack your feet on top of each other, lifting the hips as high as you can, reaching the left hand straight up to the ceiling.
- If you are feeling fresh, lift your top leg a few inches off the other while lifting hips. This will increase your balance and strength practice.
- Hold Side Plank for 5-10 breaths and repeat on opposite side.
- Rest in Child’s pose with hands by hips for 10 breaths before moving into the rest of your practice.
- Drop bottom knee to the floor, and keep it there.
- Rest on forearm for side plank instead of wrists, to protect injured parts.
- Engage your core, and lift kneecaps for max focus on strength. Stay like a board, not sagging in the hips, shoulders, etc.
Side Plank is one of my favorite poses to build the core strength and awareness for more complex poses and inversions. I am available for private Yoga coaching at Seattle Athletic Club, if you have any questions about this pose or want to enrich your on going practice!
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Purpose: This exercise strengthens the abdominals and the buttocks and improves coordination.
- Sit in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Hug your right leg and pull it in to your chest with your inside hand on the knee and your outside hand on the ankle.
- Roll your back down to the mat, bringing the bent leg (right leg) with you; head and upper shoulders are off the mat. Then, extend your left leg out in front of you; let it hover above the mat at about a 45 degree angle or at an angle so your back stays flat on the mat.
- With elbows lifted; chin to chest; inhale. Then, exhale and switch legs, bringing the outside hand to the ankle and the inside hand to the knee (left leg). Stretch your right leg long; hovering above the mat at about a 45 degree angle; making sure your leg is in line with the center of your body.
- Repeat 8-10 sets. To finish, hug both knees in toward chest, put head and shoulders on mat.
- Scoop your belly at all times. Stay lifted (eyes on belly) and slide shoulders down away from ears.
- Remain still in your torso- not rocking your body from side to side when switching legs.
- Pay attention to the hand placement as it keeps your leg in proper alignment with your hip.
Visualization: Imagine you are anchored to the floor below.
Modification: Rest your head on the mat when necessary. If you have a bad knee; hold the underside of the thigh. For a bad back; extend the straight leg to the ceiling. As your lower abdominal strength improves, you can begin to lower the leg.
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Most people associate yoga with flexibility and mental relaxation training, but rarely make the connection that Yoga Asana (poses) are great abdominal strength training too! If you need a break from “crunches”, take a little journey with me as I explore two powerful “hard core” poses from the yoga asana sequence.
Plank Pose and Dolphin Plank are two very powerful strengtheners for both the abdominal core and hip flexors. Plank has the added benefit of strengthening the chest, arms, back and triceps, which traditional sit up don’t do. Keeping your torso strong will help prevent a sore back, and helps you move your limbs with more grace and awareness away from the spinal medium.
The strength training from Plank will also help for more challenging yoga poses like Head and Handstand for the advanced practitioner, and if you are an athlete, a strong core translates in to explosive power and injury prevention and quicker recovery.
To begin, find Down Dog on your mat, and make sure your fingers are spread wide and you have a strong connection between the floor and the power moving up your arms, lifting the shoulder blades up your back.
Plank is, moving the shoulders forward from Down Dog, so your shoulders and elbows are in a direct line above your wrists, and your body is straight out behind you like a board.
To prevent “sagging” in the hips, tighten your kneecaps, activate your inner thighs and push “away” from the floor with your feet and hands. Your hips should be about level to shoulders.
Since the breath (prana) in yoga is so very important, as you hold this pose for 5-10 breath cycles, fill out your rib cage with new oxygen like a balloon. This newly oxygenated blood with give you energy and focus to hold the pose, and train you to breath deeply while under stress.
Dolphin Plank is similar to Plank with your forearms on the floor instead of hands. This is great if you have wrist issues or shoulder injury.
Start on hands and knees, in Cat/Cow, and lay your forearms on the floor, palms facing down, fingers wide, and elbows and wrists as wide as your shoulders. From there push back off the floor to either a Down Dog Dolphin or walk your feet back behind you so you are straight like a board, same as Plank.
For more intensity in both poses, join feet together and lift one foot at a time off the floor and hold up for the 5-breath cycle. Then switch. To strengthen Glute Medias, lift the foot, keep the toes pointing down, and open the leg out an inch or two. SLOWLY!!
To modify, set knees on floor and press belly button actively up toward spine so you won’t sag in belly.
As always, all Yoga Asana and other similar movement disciplines are best under the guidance of a certified instructor or coach. Come try one of my classes at Seattle Athletic Club Downtown, and I’ll show you this and a whole lot more! Monday/Wednesday from 6:00 – 7:00pm.
PS…. in case you didn’t realize, Tonja is one of the senior yoga instructors at Seattle Athletic Club, conducts classes for the Seattle Sounders, FC and has conducted classes for the Seattle Seahawks, Rat City Roller Girls, and members of the Luna Cycling Teams. She is also a Lululemon Ambassador, and has taught yoga internationally in Thailand, Vietnam and Croatia. She is looking forward to her up coming trip to Oaxaca, Mex. to teach and practice her Spanish skills. She is a certified Thai Yoga practitioner and mixes a wonderful blend of Thai Yoga and passive yoga stretching for a total body feel good tune up, in her private practice. She is ever grateful for the lessons her students teach her , and always curious about way to make yoga accessible for all.
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