This is another portion of my blog that I am very much so looking forward to sharing with you all – #TutorialThursdayWithSteff. I had such a lovely time writing my first “how to” blog post and was curious as to how my friends/students/followers felt about it. So, about a week ago, I asked my Instagram family (if you aren’t following me on Instagram already – click here to join the fun) to let me know how they felt about the first post and asked if they had any requests on poses they would like a tutorial of – the response was phenomenal! I now have a long list of poses I am going to break down for you all every week, so keep your eyes peeled every Thursday for something magical!
The first request that I got was for Side Plank Pose or if you are fluent in Sanskrit (or learning) Vasisthasana. There are so many benefits to this pose. This pose will strengthen your wrists, arms, and shoulders because you are basically holding yourself up using the one hand! Your core will get a great work out too! Keeping your core engaged is what creates the “lightness” in this posture and it also keeps your body in the correct position. Your will also find your legs in this pose. What I mean by that is you will use your legs, a lot! Grounding your legs takes a lot of effort and depending on the different variations you take – it can be even more challenging. These types of balancing poses take a lot of preparation and intention – improving your concentration.
Okay enough chit-chat. Let’s get to it!
#1 Modified Side Plank
Let’s begin with a modified side plank! Please keep in mind, even when you are modifying, you are getting benefits. In fact, I believe you get more benefits modifying, when necessary, as opposed to pushing yourself to a space your body may not be ready for YET. Don’t let ego win. Honor your process and know that with each practice you are growing stronger and stronger. Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that with practice, all will come!
Okay – back to the pose! For this variation, you will begin in a table top position. Come to the floor on your hands and knees. Separate your hands shoulders width distance apart then separate your knees and feet hip width distance apart. Your wrists are stacked under your shoulders and your knees are stacked under your hips. Engage your core to avoid dropping into your low back. Lastly, think about lengthening your tailbone back ( engaging your muscles to reach back ) and lengthening through the crown of your head to reach forward. From this position, begin to extend your left leg out behind you and pivot your heel inward and ground that left outside edge of your foot to the mat as best as you can. As you ground through the outside edge of your left foot, be mindful to not collapse into the inside arch of your left foot. Meaning – I should be able to stick my little finger under that arch and if you are collapsing there – try engaging your inner thigh more to find the lift! You’ll find that as you start to move your leg into this new position, your torso is going to shift to allow the space to be created. Allow this shift to happen! Now let’s get your right leg/foot set up. Your right knee is still to the floor from the table top position. Let’s adjust this leg to give you a little more surface area to play with. Lift your right foot and shin up enough to give it some space to move, turn this part of your leg out to the right while keeping your right knee grounded. Let’s try to plant that right foot and shin in line with your knee. Press the top of your foot and shin into the mat. Almost there, one last piece! Bring your attention to your right hand and ground down into it as much as you can, spread those fingers wide, and draw that right shoulder back. Once you feel stable, start to reach your left arm up towards the sky. Trying to stack both your shoulders and hips on top of each other. There should be equal force in the push to ground and reach to lift. Ground down into your right leg to allow the left hip to reach up more. Ground down into your right palm to broaden your collar bones. Reach through your back, left leg to keep your inner thighs strong and engaged. Reach through your top, left finger tips to lengthen through that arm. Reach through the crown of your head to find length in your torso and lastly, if it feels comfortable on your neck, tag your gaze up towards the left fingertips. Breathe into this space and always practice both sides!
#2 Little Less Modified Side Plank
If you felt pretty solid in the first modified side plank – why not give this second modified side plank a try? This second variation will be a little more challenging, but there still are plenty of anchor points touching the floor. I find that with this variation, it is easier to enter it beginning in downward facing dog. Let’s shortly brush up on our downward facing dog, can’t hurt right? (Side note – would you be interested in a blog post breaking down the “yoga basics”, if so, click here to send me your feedback!) Downward facing dog begins in table top position (refer to last paragraph on how to table top). From your table top position, begin to tuck all ten toes underneath you, extend your legs back as if you were trying to get your heels to touch the floor, your hips are moving up and then back, and while all this is happening you are continuously pressing into your palms to create a stable foundation. These movements have assisted you in creating a triangle shape with your body. All ten fingers are spread nice wide and your palms are grounded into the floor. Rotate your biceps inward to stabilize your shoulders a little more. Lift your pelvis up and shift your hips back to find more length through your low back. And lastly, allow your heels to reach towards the feel as much as they comfortably can. Once you feel solid in your downward facing dog – let’s move onto modified side plank #2! Begin to shift right heel out – placing the outside edge of your right foot onto your mat. As you do this, stay very strong right shoulder and keep pressing into your right hand. You’ll find that your left hand is starting to feel light – this is normal! You’ll also find that your left leg is starting to look a little funny, no worries. We are going to get that into place now! Begin to step your left foot about halfway forward – in line with your hips – then turn your left toes out perpendicular to your body and make sure that left knee is bent directly over your ankle. Now for the icing on the cake! Left arm reaches up towards the sky to finish up the pose. Stay mindful to keep pushing into the mat where any limbs are grounded. Keep the intention of stacking shoulders and stacking hips. Think about lifting your hips a little higher and breathing a little deeper. Maybe a shift up in the gaze? You decide! Try the same thing for the other side!
#3 Even Less Modified Side Plank Pose
This next shape is gearing us closer to the full expression of the pose! I’m going to call this one the Even Less Modified Side Plank. Let’s enter this pose from plank pose (looks like the top of a push-up). Here’s a quick little break down of plank! Begin in table top and take your gaze between your palms to keep your neck long! Tuck all ten twos under you and begin to fully extend your legs behind you. Knees, thighs, and shins are away from your mat. Imagine your body creating a beautiful diagonal line starting at the top of your head and ending at your feet. That means your bum can’t be too high or your hips too low. Keep your thighs engaged, keep pressing into your palms, reaching through the crown of your head, and lengthening past your tailbone. If you find this to be challenging, you can gently drop down to your knees to modify. If you find this to be the case for your plank, I would suggest practicing the first two modified side planks to build the strength up for this next posture. *Remember* you are always getting benefits in your practice as long as you honor where you are at! Back to our side plank pose – begin in your plank position. Walk your feet in towards each other so that your ankle bones are side by side in the midline of your body. Squeeze your inner thighs together and start to roll onto the outside edge of your right foot. As you do this, cross at your ankles – allowing your left foot to come in front of the right foot. Continue to press into both inner edges of both feet and eventually trying to ground down through the outside edges of both feet. Pressing into the edges of the feet will allow your hips to keep reaching up and keep them equally stacked! Press into the your right hand, firm the right shoulder back, and reach up through your left fingertips to stack the shoulders over each other. If your neck feels good, take your gaze up, if not – keep looking directly in front of you. Breathe into this shape and try it again on the other side!
#4 Side Plank
And here we are! We made it to our traditional Side Plank pose! We have gone over all of the foundational prep work and now we are ready to put it to use. From here on out, I will just be referring to the name of the set up poses – if you forget how to plank, just refer to the paragraph(s) above! Begin in your plank position! Adjust your feet so that your ankle bones are side by side and engage your legs to hug in towards each other. Begin to roll your body weight over towards your right and as you do this you will stack your left foot on top of your right. Press into the outer edge of your right foot. Reach through your legs to keep them long and engaged. Bring your attention to your right hand – keep it grounded, spreading five fingers wide, and gluing your palm into the mat. Left hand will now begin to reach up towards the ceiling and continue to actively reach up through your fingertips. Stay mindful of the backside of both of your arms – keep them engaged. Shoulders are stacked, hips are stacked. Lift your hips, squeeze your abdomen, hug the thighs together, and one day taking your gaze up towards your left hand. Breathe, stay calm, and do the same for your second side!
#5 Side Plank Tree Variation
Now we add on the fun and challenging variations to our side plank pose. Let’s begin this tree variation on our traditional side plank pose. Find your foundation in side plank and feel rooted in this shape. You can either use your left hand to grab your left ankle and place it on your right inner thigh or simply glide your left foot up your right leg up to your right inner thigh. If you’re unable to place your left foot on your right thigh, try placing it on the right calf. Just pick above or below the knee – not on top of the knee! There’s no need to compromise that lovely bone structure. The “trick” to keeping the foot to thigh connection is equal pressure coming from both sides. Press your through all four corners of your left foot and and lift your inner thigh into the arch of your left foot. Rotate your left hip out from the midline of your body – think of how a flower blooms as you do this movement. Your intention is to get your left knee pointing up towards the ceiling. Keep reaching up, keep looking up, keep breathing, and try it for your other side!
#6 Side Plank with Yogi Toe Lock
We have made it to the top of the mountain! Our final variation of side plank pose – this one includes a yogi toe lock. What the hell is a yogi toe lock? It’s not as intense as it sounds, I promise. Yogi toe lock is simply using your peace fingers ( index finger and ole reliable – also known as your middle finger haha ) and thumb to grab onto your big toe. Let’s begin this pose in our traditional side plank. From here, begin to bend your left knee in towards your chest so that you are able to find that left big toe! Reach down with left hand for your big toe – using the yogi toe lock! Stay mindful of pressing into your right hand and the right foot. Once you feel stable with that grip on your toe and readjusting any imbalances in your foundation – you will start to extend your left leg up towards the ceiling as straight as you can. Take your gaze up towards the ceiling as well. Continue to reach through your left arm even when you have the big toe grab and continue to kick the left leg into the sky. Don’t forget to breathe! To exit this posture, you can gently release your left big toe and allow that left leg to gracefully meet the right leg back in it’s original side plank position. As always, practice both sides and enjoy yourself!
If you loved this blog post today – please share if with your friends! Click the buttons below to share them to your social media. If this post helped you and you tried your own Side Plank pose, post it to social media – use the hashtag #TutorialThursdayWithSteff and tag me @yogawithsteff so we can keep in touch and start a lovely community! Thank you for taking the time to read this and I’ll see you next week for #TutorialThursdayWithSteff.