Not so long ago, when I was able to attend a live class, our teacher (and my friend) Leanna, asked what came up for us when we practice Side Plank (Vasisthasana).

There were different answers across the room. Some said how strong and how much a rockstar they feel like when they practice side plank, some felt unsure of themselves and not strong enough…

For me, side plank is one of those poses that keeps me honest. Since you are working on one side, you can feel in your body where you lose integrity. This is challenging, but healthy to know where you can focus your attention to build and maintain active muscle engagement in your body.

So, let’s break down side plank with a few modifications. (More photos and options listed/shown below.) Always remember, when you are practicing a yoga pose, or any type of movement, if you begin to feel a sharp, shooting pain, back out of the position, and work with a modification that allows you to build strengthen, lengthen muscles, without pain. A yoga pose is for you, and not the other way around. . This is your practice, make the pose(s) work for your body.

Engagement in your shoulders and core.

-When you rotate to one side, whether you keep you bottom knee on the floor*, or your legs extended, press your bottom hand (especially your thumb and index finger) into your mat, and slide your shoulder blades down your back.
-Pull your belly button in toward your spine, and slide your low ribs down toward your belly button.
-Check to see if your hips are stacked, reach your tailbone toward your heels
-Pull your inner thighs together
-Spread your toes wide

As you pull your core in and pull your muscles toward your midline, also take up space by spreading your fingers and toes wide, working to keep your body stacked up in a long line. Additional options shown below.

Maybe your bottom knee being on the floor still is too much for your shoulders or wrist, then the standing against the wall option would be a great place to practice. You can still practice all the actions and skills in side plank. The image below should his hand flat against the wall, and from there, he can still engage through his shoulders and glide his shoulders away from his ears and down his back. With this variation, your “top” (outside) leg can still be stacked against your bottom leg, or you can experiment with another version, still maintaining your core muscles and hips staying stacked.

It is possible that your bottom knee being on the floor still is too much for your shoulders or wrists, then the standing against the wall option would be a great place to practice.

You can still practice all the actions and skills in side plank.
The image below should his hand flat against the wall, and from there, he can still engage through his shoulders and glide his shoulders away from his ears and down his back. With this variation, your “top” (outside) leg can still be stacked against your bottom leg, or you can experiment with another version, still maintaining your core muscles and hips staying stacked.

In this variation, instead of her bottom knee being on the mat, she has her top leg crossed over and her foot on the mat. If working with your bottom knee on the floor creates pain in your bottom knee, this this could be the place for you. You still work all of the actions, minus any pain. Win, win.

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