Thursday, April 10, 2008

Focus Pose - Plank Pose

Finally! A quiet moment to attend to my blog. My apologies for such a late posting - I was on vacation last week and hit the ground running at work on Monday. It is now Thurs and while the meetings and frantic activity of the week have past, a massive snowstorm is bearing down upon the Duluth area for Friday. We are seriously wondering if summer has passed us by...

In the meantime, let’s look at another pose! A student recently inquired what she could do to improve her core strength which got me to thinking about the next pose in our Ashtanga sequence - which is actually Surya Namaskar B, but we’ll approach it differently this time. Let’s take a look at Plank Pose which we move through three times during Surya Namaskar B.

I love plank pose. It targets so many muscle groups at once. We are working on shoulder and upper arm strength, we are targeting our core and lower back muscles, our thighs must stay active and strong, our neck stays long to keep our head lifted and in line with our spine. With so much going on, it takes awareness of your body to determine what you need to do and where you need to do it.

Let’s break the pose down into it’s elements:

1) Envision entering the pose from your forward fold, as if moving through a sun salutation. Your hands press firmly into your mat, palms flat**, fingers spread to provide a strong base. It is important that your wrists be directly under your shoulders.

2) Your shoulders move away from your ears, broaden your back. A tendency here is to “hunch” into the shoulder blades - counter this by rolling your shoulders toward the floor and not your ears.

3) Here comes your mid-section! Move your abdomen toward the ceiling, this is where the support and strength for this pose comes from. However, resist the tendency to lift the tailbone upwards as well. Keep the thighs active, also lifting upwards.

4) Speaking of head, the gaze should remain on the floor about a foot in front of your hands. Avoid looking up, avoid sagging the head. If you can see behind your hands, lift your head.

If you can, practice in front of a mirror - you are trying to establish one long straight line from heels to head.

From your forward fold, move into plank pose and establish your foundation with your hands and feet. Then, keeping the hands and feet glued to the floor, allow your knees to come to the mat. Your abdomen should still be lifting toward the ceiling, thighs engaged. This is a great place to work from - a modified push up position that will allow you to work on shoulder and mid-section strength but take some of the strain off the lower back.

**If you have wrist issues and flat palms are not a comfortable or feasible place to work, this pose can be done with clenched fists. You would make a fist and place your knuckles on the floor. Inside of the hands would face each other. Then continue to move through the pose.

To further target the core, bring one leg parallel to the floor, hold for several counts and switch legs. Increase the duration of the counts over time.
Or, move into a modified plank pose by bringing the elbows to the floor directly under the shoulders and press the palms together. Hold for as long as you can!

Further information can be found here at the Yoga Journal website: plank pose and modified plank pose.

**both pictures are from

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for breaking down all aspects of the plank pose - this is very helpful! Missing just one of these aspects keeps you from practicing the plank to its fullest potential.
Namaste ~ Keri from Milwaukee, WI