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Plank Pose

Plank pose can be pesky. It comes up a lot in active Hatha Yoga classes, it is part of the traditional Sun Salutation Sequence and a certain mindset is needed to want to do it.

Here we break down the pose so that we connect to our inner strength, or sometimes in yoga we call it the inner fire, and build it from the inside out. When we connect to the inner core muscles and integrate the spine from the crown of the head to the tip of the tail it may seem like we are working harder but it is actually a more supportive way to work in the posture than what you might be doing now. The tendency is to get tired and hang into the bones- letting the integrity of the spine go which puts added pressure on those wrists. Find the lift and the lengthen here - that happy space between the shoulder blades. Send your energy in all directions- heels way past the back edge of the mat, crown of the head way past the front edge of the mat. Resist gravity and light your inner fire. Wake up your transversus absomini! (It's abdominus, but I like how amdomni sounds way better.) Ask yourself, "Am I having a 100% full body experience here?" Take stock. Remember to rest in between, modify as needed, and let it build.

Plank is widely used and often misunderstood or even painful- so lets figure it out and stoke that fire. As always, send your questions and comments in.  I'm am here to help.

XO
Adriene

 

Benefits

  • Strengthens arms, wrists and abdominals
  • Strengthens calves, quads and back
  • Provides spinal support and improves posture

Modifications/Variations

  • Half Plank variation on knees
  • Plankasana on forearms - do not clasp hands, keep them in line with elbows
  • Practice at wall
  • Try one legged plank - lifting one leg, keeping it parallel to mat
  • Use a strap to practice hugging arms in together in proper alignment *See images below!

putting on strap, plank

  • If you do not have a strap - use an old tie!

plank with strap

7 comments on “Plank Pose”

  1. I'm a classical guitarist with wrist pressure concerns, so I loved the elbow variation. It was a wicked awesome burn for the abs btw, although even more challenging to avoid sinking into the shoulders.

    Up until now, I have been using fists for any extended plank poses, but as that is not really an option for downward dog, any hatha flows moving between the two required an awkward switch, and I would just do the regular version for both. Now that elbow-plank is an option, I'm going to practice my elbow down-dog (which is pretty bad atm) and see if I can learn to do an entire sun salutation flow with all elbow variations.

    So, thanks! Any pointers, or experience teaching wrist pressure-concerned folks live?

    1. Hi Ben! Yes, you are right- on elbows/forearms is actually more work for the center and it is good to point out that you have to work a little harder to not sink into your shoulder bones. I do get A LOT of students with wrist pressure and carpal tunnel. However, I will go out on a limb and say that about half of them actually suffer from injury or carpal tunnel syndrome and the other are just beginners learning how to light up the body, perhaps muscles they have not engaged in awhile or ever, leading them to experience too much pressure on their wrists in yoga asana. As I do not use a lot of props in my public classes so I mainly recommend fists and forearms (title of my next book) for modifications. If I am teaching a private session or customized class I will break out the props to treat and experiment with wrists and they can be very helpful.

  2. I have been trying to do modified planks putting the weight onto my knees, but my knees hurt way to much to hold for more than a few seconds (though my core feels strong enough to hold for longer). Have you got any suggestions of what I'm doing wrong, or a different modification to try?

    1. Hi there, have you tried padding the knees with a blanket or pillow? Also folding up your mat can provide a little extra cushion if you need. I recommend making sure that you are shifting your weight forward so that the majority of your weight is connected through your center while use use your arms (and less knees) to push up and out of the earth. Think about a long straight diagonal line from the crown of the head to your tailbone. Let me know!

  3. adrienne. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I've been following you and doing a daily yoga practice with you every day since last June 2016 when I discovered you on You tube and on your web site. Sometimes I choose slow, sometimes dynamic sessions. I live in the UK and am 64 years old. I have been doing yoga for ever, and I really appreciate your style of teaching, your mantras and your ethic. I love slow meaningful yoga and all that goes with it. Thank you again and for sharing.

  4. Hi Adriene, huge fan from Greece here!

    I am trying to understand whether the inside of my elbows should be pointing outwards or side (facing each other), can you please specify?

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