A Plank Pose Tutorial
Today I bring you a Plank Pose Tutorial to help clarify alignment and energetic actions in this common yoga pose. Plank, or phalakasana, is a great pose for strengthening the entire body and takes a lot of patience and attention to detail. Remember to use the breath to help keep the mind focused and the body steady. Otherwise we tend to dwell on that shaking feeling in the arms, shoulders and core. It’s one of those things in life you either love or hate – but either way it’s great for ya!
Getting Into the Pose:
Start in tabletop with the hands under the shoulders, and the knees under the hips.
Spread the fingers wide and allow the thumbs to rest comfortable down. Press all 4 corners of the palms actively into the mat, aligning the wrist crease with the front of the mat and as you inhale bring your awareness to the space between the shoulder blades – feel that space expand, and feel the shoulder blades wrap around the sides of the body.
As you exhale, try to maintain that feeling of expansion between the shoulder blades as you feel the naval pull gently back towards the spine. Inhale to reach the left leg back behind you curling the toes under and pressing the ball of the foot into the floor. Exhale and feel the core engage strongly as you activate the quad and actively press back through the left heel.
Maintain a strong engagement in the core as you inhale the right foot back to join the left. Exhale to engage the core as strongly as possible, keeping the hips from lifting, and pressing actively back through both heels. Continue pressing the arms down strongly in order to lift weight out of the shoulder girdle and breathe into the space between the shoulder blades.
Half Plank is a great variation for those who wish to build strength in preparation for Full Plank. Simply start in Tabletop and walk the arms forward so that the shoulders are still aligned over the wrists (or just in front) and the hips come in line with the crown of the head and the knees. Engage the core strongly and continue the same energetic actions of pressing out of the shoulders in order to get the same benefits as in full Plank. Just be mindful – there is a tendency to keep the hips pulled back as though in Tabletop, but this will cheat you out of the core-building potential of this pose. When you’re tired, take a break in Child’s Pose
Tips, Tricks, and Modifications:
Until you get a good feel for the alignment in this one, practice in front of a mirror so that you can see when your hips are either dipping too low to the ground (ouchee lowerback!) or of the hips are floating above the level of the shoulders (cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater).
If you find the shoulders are collapsing, causing a scrunching in the place between the shoulder blades then drop down to a half plank to focus on building strength in the arms and shoulders before advancing to the full pose. Keep consciously working the core strength and pressing out of the shoulders.
If you find that you are unable to maintain a nice long line through the body, keeping the hips in line with the head and the heels, then drop down to a half plank and try working one leg at a time to get a better sense of the way the alignment feels in the body.
If you encounter pain in the wrists focus strongly on pressing evenly with all 4 corners of the palm and try to imagine energy running all the way out the tips of the fingers. We tend to rest all of our weight in the heel of the palm, putting undue pressure on the wrist. Try to spread the weight of the body forward on the hand.
If you continue to encounter pain in the wrists, try moving onto fists, with the inside of the fists facing inwards towards each other.