Phalakasana: Plank Pose

HighPlank-AshleighSergeant

Phalakasana (fall-ack-AHS-anna), is an essential posture for a strong yoga practice. Holding plank pose will improve your endurance and muscle tone, help develop the strength needed for more complex poses, and generate 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.

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.

PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Downward-facing dog | Adho mukha svanasana
  • Four-limbed staff pose | Chaturanga dandasana
  • Tabletop pose

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

  • Crow pose | Bakasana
  • Tree pose | Vrksasana
  • Forearm plank

COUNTER POSES:

SANSKRIT:

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

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Benefits health of wrists.
  • Improves muscle tone of arms, shoulders, and core.
  • Builds endurance

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

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


Agnistambhasana: Firelog Pose

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS   |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Agnistambhasana (AG-nee-stahm-BAHS-ah-nah) is sometimes referred to as double pigeon pose because the legs take a similar shape as they do in pigeon pose. Firelog pose creates a deep stretch in the outer hips and space in the low back.

Philosophy + Origin

Fire (agni) is a transformative element. Agnistambhasana can be very uncomfortable as many people carry deep tension in their hips. See if you can feel the fire building in your hips and with your breath as you hold this pose.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Sit on a folded blanket or block to create more space for your hips.
  • Place your top leg in front of your bottom leg (rather than on top of it) to ease pressure on the knees.
  • Use a block under your top ankle to release pressure on your bottom leg.
  • Use a block under your top knee to help the hip relax and to relieve discomfort in the knee.
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