Side Plank: Complexity in Simplicity

VasisthasanaThe overall alignment of Side Plank Pose – Vasisthasana might look pretty simple, actually it is the Mountain Pose – Tadasana in the other dimension. However, the placement of the bottom arm and shoulder of Side Plank is particularly complex. Without close attention, Side Plank can cause potential risk to your wrists, elbows and shoulders. To prevent these unnecessary pains, optimal alignment of the arm bone and shoulder should be practiced carefully when you do Side Plank.

As Simple as Tadasana

The basic alignment of Vasisthasana is found in Mountain Pose – Tadasana. Here is some of the essentials I would like to emphasize when apply it to Side Plank.

As you getting into Side Plank, imagine you are standing on the floor when you stack your feet over each other. Or you can practice it with the soles of feet pressing against the wall. As you straighten the legs, draw the energy down the legs through the heels and press the weight equally across all four corners underneath both feet into the imaginary floor or the wall. Simultaneously, lift the arches underneath the feet and inner ankles up, squeeze the outer shins toward each other and pull the thighs up toward the hip joints to engage the quadriceps.

Slightly rotate the thigh bones inward, widening the sit bones. Then draw your tailbone down to the heels and lift the front of your hip bones up toward the navel. This will bring your pelvis to its neutral position.

Elongate your torso and soften the floating ribs, draw them in. At the same time, firm the shoulder blades into the back, but do not squeeze them. As you are extending the top arm up, broaden across the collar bones, firm your tricep muscles and reach up through the fingertips. Finish the Side Plank by gazing up at the top thumb. Keep your breathing even and smooth.

The Arm Balance Component

We can put Side Plank Pose – Vasisthasana in the category of arm balance pose because the bottom arm bears most of the body weight. So it is reasonable to focus more on the alignment of the bottom arm. Normally we come into Side Plank by transitioning from Plank Pose. So you can establish the proper arm placement in Plank before you turn your body into Side Plank.

In Plank Pose, stack the shoulders directly above the wrists. Move your shoulders away from ears by rotating the upper arms outwardly so your biceps and elbow creases are facing a bit forward. Notice by the way this external rotation plugs the head of the arm bone into the shoulder socket and broadens the collar bones. Nevertheless, to prevent your arms from excessive external rotation, press down through the base of the index finger and make sure the thumb sides of yours hands still touch the floor.

When you shift to Side Plank, maintain all of these actions in the bottom arm that you initiated in Plank Pose. Then you stabilize your shoulder blades by drawing the shoulder blade of the bottom arm down the back and pressing it into the back ribs. Keep your fingers spread wide and continue to press the base of the index finger as you reach the top arm up. Feel the broadness of the collar bones and also of the upper back.

Pain-Free Wrists and Shoulders

Vasisthasana strengthens your wrists, arms, shoulders and torso. However, there is a long list of potential injuries of Side Plank; wrist pain, rotator cuff injuries, dislocation of shoulders, for example.

To prevent these unnecessary injuries it is important to start the practice with other less strenuous exercise, increase the challenge for wrists and shoulders gradually before you progress to the Side Plank. Repetitive compression should be avoided, so give your arms a break in between weight bearing pose. Slow your movement down and pay more attention to the optimal alignment. Do the easier variation of Side Plank if you find that it is too challenging for you; you can put the bottom knee down or keep the bottom leg extended and bend top knee, step top foot in front of your body to provide support. And do not attempt Side Plank if you have shoulder or wrist problem.

Let Side Plank strengthen your arms and shoulders, not to damage them.

Model: Job in Vasisthasana