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Picture of Side Plank Pose

 

Vasisthasana: Side Plank Pose


Vasisthasana (vah-sish-TAHS-anna), or Side Plank pose, is seen in a variety of forms. From modifications designed for accessibility, to classic variations and challenging contemporary shapes, Vasisthasana has something for everyone. At its core, Side Plank pose is a challenging arm balance that requires core, arm, and wrist strength. Practicing Side Plank will help improve the sense of physical and mental balance.

Philosophy + Origin

The word “vasistha” shows up often in the yogic tradition. Directly translating to “most excellent, best, richest,” there are several sages with the name “Vashistha.” This pose honors all those sages, including an array of rishis and prajapatis (lords of creation). Many Vedic hymns are also credited to a sage named Vashistha. According to tradition, he was the proud owner of Nandini, a famous wish-granting cow that helped Vashistha acquire vast wealth.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Instead of using your palm, practice with your lower forearm to the ground. This reduces pain and discomfort in hands and wrists.
    To steady yourself as you balance, practice with the soles of your feet pressed firmly into a wall.
  • Holding your gaze downward (rather than looking up) will be more comfortable for your neck.
  • To reduce intensity, drop your bottom knee to the ground.
  • Rather than stacking your feet one on top of the other, keep them separated to improve balance.
  • This pose is more challenging when you lift your top leg. In the classical Iyengar version of this pose, the top leg is lifted perpendicular to the floor with two fingers hooked around the big toe.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Wrist pain or injury
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Serious elbow or shoulder injuries

TIPS:

For many, balancing in Vasisthasana is challenging; sometimes impossible. Practicing this posture with the aid of a wall is a good way to start. To teach or practice this variation, start in Down Dog with both heels pressed against the wall. As you start to work your way into Side Plank, press the soles of both feet firmly into the wall, especially through the heels.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Entering Vasisthasana from Downward Facing Dog is usually the easiest for most students. From Downward Facing Dog, shift onto the outer edge of your left foot. Stack the right foot directly on top of the left. Once your feet are stacked, place your right hand on your right hip, working to stack the hips. Your whole body should be aligned with the outside edge of your left foot.
  2. Move your left hand forward so it’s not stacked directly under the shoulder. Straighten your left arm, engaging the triceps so the upper arm muscle hugs against the bone.
  3. Keep your shoulder blades firmly against your back as you engage your legs. Your thigh muscles should be actively working and strengthening to help you press through your heels. Feel the sensation of a long line of energy moving from your heels to the crown of your head.
  4. Reach your top arm up to align with your shoulders. If it’s comfortable for your neck, turn your gaze up toward the thumb of your top hand. Hold this pose for up to 30 seconds before releasing back into Downward Facing Dog. After a few breaths, repeat on the other side.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Ardha Chandrasana
  • Phalakasana
  • Supta Virasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana
  • Balasana
  • Pincha Mayurasana
  • Utthita Trikonasana

SANSKRIT:

  • Vasistha = most excellent, best
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens arms, wrists, abdomen and legs
    Improves physical balance
    Tones and strengthens core and oblique

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Improves mental and emotional balance
    Boosts confidence

MANTRA:

“Guru Mantra”

The definition of this Sanskrit mantra is, “The Guru is Brahma (The creator), Lord Vishnu (The preserver), and Lord Shiva (the destroyer). To that very Guru I bow, for He is the Supreme Being, right before my eyes.” In Sanskrit, recite: “Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara. Guru Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Shree Guruvey Namaha.” This mantra expresses gratitude for all of our teachers — past, present and future.

MUDRA: Gyan Mudra

The mudra of knowledge, Gyan Mudra is practiced by joining the tip of the index finger with the tip of the thumb. Designed to help improve concentration and mental power, it can also release anger, stress, and depression. Traditionally, this mudra is practiced for 30 to 40 minutes in the early morning.

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