Pose of the Month: Side Plank


This pose is classified as a balancing pose. It demands full concentration as well as determination. Side plank is also a great pose to develop strong, stable shoulders and wrists.

How to: Side Plank

Begin in plank pose, or in a position at the top of a push up. Be sure your shoulders are directly above your wrists, creating a 90 degree angle in them. Your body is in one line without sagging in your hips or belly. Keep your legs strong and core tight. Drop your heels to the right; slowly bring your left arm up to the sky. You should now be aligning your left arm through your chest down to your right wrist. Your chest opens to the left. In time you will be able to look up at your left hand.

If this is too difficult a modification for beginners is, from plank drop your right knee to the floor so the knee is directly under its own hip. Drop your left heel to the right and bring your left arm up to the sky as you did above. Once you become confident, strong and develop stable wrists, you will be able to execute this without being on the knee.

Be sure your legs and core stay strong throughout the hold. Maintain even deep breaths and elongate your body.
Hold for a few breaths and then switch sides.

Benefits of Side Plank

The role of side plank is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:

  • Strengthen the shoulder girdle
  • Strengthen the wrists and elbow joint
  • Increase abdominal strength
  • Firm and tone the body

For the lay person or the Yogi, side plank opens the chest and heart. Anytime your focus is on opening the chest you are expanding the rib cage which enables you to increase your lung capacity and oxygenation to the body. This pose also helps to strengthen the back and chest at the same time in order to achieve balance. In our overly forward bending lives we need to focus on balance of the front and back body to reduce the likelihood of injury to the spine. In addition, since it is a balancing pose it automatically gets to our core increasing stomach strength and reducing back strain.

For the athlete, this pose increases abdominal strength and helps build a great support system for their back muscles. Side Plank also increase strength stability and the integrity of the wrist joint. From tennis to golf and football to baseball, open and flexible wrists are key. Whether you are blocking a defense or swinging for a hole in one, rigid wrists are assured to run you into carpal tunnel problems or sprains. The more open strong and flexible the wrist is the more power to swing your racket in tennis. Another critical reason to keep the wrist open is in the event you fall during a swift soccer play. You want the wrist to be able to handle the fall instead of breaking.

Holding the side plank builds strength while stretching, therefore if you do fall on one hand during the game your body is accustomed to taking the weight.

Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:

  • Recent abdominal surgery
  • Serious eye problems
  • Recent shoulder surgery
  • Severe neck pain

Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.

Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen’s unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy, nutrition and homeopathy, provide her clients, class participants and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga instructor for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, and the Pace University baseball team; as well as many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea. Visit her website at www.poweryogaforsports.com

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