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Phalakasana: Plank Pose


Requiring strength and steadiness, plank pose, or phalakasana (fal-ack-AHS-anna), is an essential posture for a strong yoga practice. Helping you develop the strength needed to access more advanced arm balancing postures, holding plank pose will improve your endurance and muscle tone while also generating heat and stimulating the navel chakra.

Philosophy + Origin

Hidden in the pose’s name is the Sanskrit word “phala,” which means to bear fruit or ripen. In yoga, the idea of tapas, often translated as “heat,” “passion,” or “discipline,” fuels the physical asana practice, encouraging students to seek out the challenge again and again in order to become stronger, to build an internal flame in the body that fuels every aspect of life. When you think of plank pose as an opportunity to “ripen” or “bear fruit,” you become aware of the transformative effect of this seemingly simple (although challenging) pose. Each time you enter the pose, use the breath to ripen the fruit of your labors. The ability to hold this pose with steadiness and grace is known to create major shifts in your practice and your life.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • For students with wrist pain, create fists with your hands and press your knuckles into the mat (palms facing each other) instead of placing hands flat on the floor. 
  • Place your knees to the floor.
  • Try lifting one foot off the floor at a time.
  • Flip your feet over and hold the pose on the tops of your feet to build ankle strength.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic wrist pain
  • Chronic low back pain

TIPS:

When practicing plank pose, focus your attention on the area in between your shoulder blades. With each inhalation, create more space in this area. As you do, firm the outer arms inward while resisting the urge to draw the front of the shoulders together. Though subtle, these actions will help you build a strong foundation for your practice and can make challenging poses like crow pose and headstand more accessible.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. From downward-facing dog, shift your torso forward to parallel with the ground, aligning the shoulders over the wrists and the arms perpendicular to the floor. 
  2. Spread your fingers and press firmly into the bases of your index fingers and thumbs. Draw your outer arms in as you firm and broaden your shoulder blades. 
  3. Reach your chest forward and your heels back.
  4. Engage your legs and core to support the weight of your pelvis.
  5. Keep your gaze straight down so that the back of the neck is long and comfortable.
  6. Hold the pose for as long as is comfortable with smooth, easy breathing, working your way up to a 60-second hold.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Crow pose | Bakasana
  • Headstand | Sirsasana

SANSKRIT:

  • Phala = to bear fruit, ripen
  • Phalaka = plank or board
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens the entire body
  • Benefits health of wrists
  • Improves muscle tone of arms, shoulders, and core
  • Builds endurance
  • Improves overall posture

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Builds mental endurance
  • Engages navel chakra, Manipura
  • Increases tapas in practice and life

MANTRA:

“RAM”

Connecting to your core and feeling its power in Plank pose, recite to yourself the bija mantra “Ram,” for the manipura chakra.

MUDRA: Garuda Mudra

Honor the endurance, commitment, and discipline of plank pose with garuda mudra. From seated or standing, place your palms face up, crossing your right hand over you left. Join your thumbs together by clasping at the joint.

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