What is Side Plank Pose?
The Side Plank Pose, known as Vashistasana, is a core and arm strengthening yoga posture. It strengthens the oblique abdominal muscles and is useful in core stabilization. As the side plank is done by supporting one arm on the mat, there is more stress on the wrist and arm. This engages muscles in the forearm and strengthens them. Vashistasana is an intermediate yoga posture that can be included in a regular core exercise routine or practiced on its own.
Position type: Core strengthening
Posture type: Balancing
Ideal for: Strength
Targets: Arms and core
Pose level: Intermediate
How to prepare for the side plank pose?
Arm and Core Strength
The side plank pose requires arm and core strength to not only get into the posture but to be able to hold the posture with ease. With better strength, one can even progress to advanced variations, which include lifting one leg up such that the legs are in a split. Practitioners can improve arm and core strength by practicing Surya Namaskars at a medium pace, the Boat Pose, Chair Pose, the Warrior Poses and Triangle Pose. For arm strength, practicing Upward Facing Dog Pose, Cobra Pose, Downward Facing Dog, Plank Pose, and exercises such as push-ups, Low Plank to High Plank and Plank to Downward Facing Dog Pose are helpful.
Improving balance will help hold the posture for longer. For better balance, poses such as the Tree Pose, Eagle Pose and Dancer’s Pose are helpful. Even the Warrior Poses and the Chair Pose will help improve balance. Most arm balancing postures are intermediate - advanced so it could be challenging to practice. However, if one can do the supported Crow Pose and Scorpion Pose with wall support, balance will improve.
How to do the Side Plank pose
Getting into the posture
- To come into the pose, start in the Plank pose. Press the hands firmly on the mat and ensure the shoulders are over the wrists.
- Now, roll both the feet to the right, keeping the core and legs engaged. Place the left foot on top of the right.
- Keep the legs together and the right foot pushed onto the mat. Simultaneously, keep the right hand also pushed onto the mat and raise the left hand.
- Look up towards the raised hand or look straight ahead.
- Continue to keep the abdomen and legs engaged.
- Stay here for a few deep breaths.
Getting out of the posture
- To come out of the pose, exhale, lower the left hand and bring the left leg back on the mat, coming into the plank position.
- Repeat the same on the other side.
Key alignments in the Side Plank pose
- Both the arms should remain in a straight line.
- Ensure the body is turned sideways and is straight.
- Keep the legs straight, squeezed together and engaged when they are stacked one on top of the other.
What are the benefits of Side Plank pose?
Vashistasana is an effective strengthening posture that tones the arms, core and legs. It improves focus and concentration greatly. It strengthens the oblique abdominal muscles, which don’t get worked too much during regular ab or core exercises. The stronger the obliques, the better the stabilization of the core muscles. It also helps reduce fat from the sides of the waist. The gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles also get engaged and strengthened, and they help stabilize the hips. The shoulders, arms and wrist muscles are all engaged and strengthened too.
What are the contraindications of the Side Plank pose?
Anyone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome should avoid the posture. Practitioners who have had any recent arm or wrist injuries should also avoid the pose. Anyone with leg or back pain should avoid the pose and be careful when practicing. If one has neck pain, then the gaze should be kept straight ahead and not upwards.
Counter poses for the Side Plank pose
Practice Plank Pose, Downward Facing Dog Pose or Child’s pose after doing Vashistasana.
Variations of the Side Plank pose
- Initially, practitioners can keep the lower knee on the floor until arm and core strength is built up
- The feet can also be brought slightly apart such that the outer edge of the right foot and inner edge of the left foot are both on the floor.
- A third option is initially the top leg can be bent and placed flat on the floor in front of you, and the lower leg can be kept straight.
- Once enough strength and balance is developed, practitioners can raise the top leg upwards such that the legs are in a split position.
- One can bring the upper leg onto the inner thigh (as you would in the Tree pose) and keep the hips slightly lifted higher up. The lower leg remains pushed into the mat to keep it strong.
Advice for beginners
Start with the easier variations and as you build up enough strength and balance, you can do the full Side Plank. Easing into the posture gradually will help avoid muscle strain. Ensure you keep the shoulders aligned over the wrists and press the base of your fingers downwards. This will help protect the wrists.
- Ensure you do enough warm-ups before doing the Side Plank pose.
- This posture doesn’t put as much pressure on the lower back or neck as other core exercises, however, if you have any pain, practice very carefully or avoid it until the pain subsides.
- Avoid allowing the hips to sag as the alignment of a straight line will get disturbed.
- Similarly, do not allow your body to roll forward as the proper position will not be maintained.
- As it is an intermediate posture, it is best to learn to practice with a certified yoga teacher before attempting it on your own.