Side Plank (Vasisthasana ) and Variations

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Basic Side Plank - Vasisthasana

Side Plank Pose - Vasisthasana
Ben Goldstein

Type of pose: Arm Balance

Benefits: Strengthens the arms, back, and core. Improves balance.

There are a lot of ways to modify your side plank. Some variations offer more support for beginners as you build strength or to accommodate injuries. Others incorporate moves that make this balancing pose even more challenging for people who want to amp it up. You'll be improving your core strength either way, which will help all your standing balances and arm balances. Before we go deeper into looking at variations in the following slides, let's start by taking a look at how to do a basic side plank.

Instructions:

1. Begin in plank pose. Transfer your weight to your right hand and raise your left hand off the floor and up toward the ceiling. Roll from the ball onto the outer edge of your right foot. 

2. Open your chest to the left as you place your left foot directly on top of your right foot. Keep your legs straight and flex both feet strongly.

3. Your left hip is stacked directly over your right. Both hips have a tendency to want to sag, so lift them energetically up to counteract the pull toward the floor. 

4. Take your gaze up to your left fingertips. 

5. After several breaths, return your left hand and foot to the floor to come back to a plank. Then do the pose on the other side.

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Supported Side Plank

Side Plank Variation I
Side Plank Variation I. © Barry Stone

If you have trouble stacking the legs or keeping them lifted off the floor, a variation with more support for your lower body could be the answer. In this version, your bent leg acts as a sort of kickstand to keep you from tipping.

Instructions:

1. From downward facing dog, bring your left foot about half way up the mat . Bend your knee and turn the left toes out.

2. Roll onto the outer edge your right foot and bring the left arm up toward the ceiling.

3. Flex your right foot and press into both feet to lift your hips.

4. Bring your gaze up to the left hand.

5. Take several breaths and then release the left hand to the floor. Step back to down dog and repeat the pose with the right foot forward.

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Forearm Side Plank

Forearm Side Plank
Forearm Side Plank. Yuri_Arcurs/E+/Getty Images

People with wrist pain often have a hard time doing side plank since it puts a lot of weight on one arm. Take the pressure out of your wrist by trying a forearm version of the pose. 

Instructions:

1. Begin in downward facing dog. Lower both forearms to the floor coming to a dolphin position. Spread your palms open and press them down.

2. Shift forward to a plank with the forearms still on the floor. 

3. Pivot on your right elbow, turning your right forearm parallel to the front of your mat. At the same time, come to the outer edge of your right foot.

4. Lift your left arm and gaze toward the ceiling as you press strongly into your forearm to keep your right shoulder from collapsing.

5. Stack your left foot on top on your right foot.

6. To move directly to the other side, release your left forearm to your mat just behind your right one. Shift over to the outer edge of your left foot and open your chest and right arm to the ceiling.

7. You can come down and rest between sides if you prefer.

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Side Plank With Tree Legs

Side Plank With Tree Legs
Side Plank With Tree Legs. Sigi Kolbe/Moment/Getty Images

If you feel like your side plank could use a little more oomph, the next four variations are here to give you options. 

Instructions:

1. Begin in side plank with the left hand down. 

2. Bend your right knee and slide your right foot up the inside of your left leg. 

3. Try to get your right foot to your inner left thigh. If it doesn't come up that far, place it on your left calf. Avoid placing it directly on the side of your knee, just like in tree pose

4. The right foot exerts some pressure on your left leg, making it even more important to keep lifting your hips so they don't end up on the floor.

5. Do both sides.

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Side Plank with Half Lotus Legs

Half Lotus Side Plank
Half Lotus Side Plank. Sigi Kolbe/Moment Open/Getty Images

A half lotus with a bind that really opens your chest.

Instructions:

1. From tree legs, bring your right foot to the front of your left hip. Press the top of your foot firmly into your hip crease, just like in half lotus tree

2. Press your left knee back so it stays in line with your left hip.

3. The bind is optional, but if you can manage it, it really emphasizes the opening of your chest to the ceiling.

4. Reach your right arm behind your back. Snake your right hand around to the front of your left hip to grab your right big toe. 

5. You may notice that the sole of your left foot is moving toward being flat on the floor,as shown here. That's ok, or you can stay on the outer edge of that foot.

6 Do both sides.

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Side Plank With One Leg Lifted

Side Plank With One Leg Lifted
Side Plank With One Leg Lifted. Patrik Giardino/Taxi/Getty Images

Going for full core power by lifting your upper leg away from the stability of your lower leg.

Instructions:

1. Begin in side plank.

2. Lift your upper leg any amount off your lower leg. It could be just a few inches, a foot, or even several feet as shown here. Keep both legs straight and engaged.

3. Keep lifting your hips toward the ceiling.

4. If the balance gets tricky, it's ok to look down at your lower hand. 

5. Lower your leg and do the other side or...

Try to move on to the last variation, full vasisthasana!

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Full Side Plank - Full Vasisthasana

Full Side Plank - Vasisthasana
Full Side Plank - Vasisthasana. Ann Pizer

If you can lift your upper leg high, you may be ready for the full expression of side plank.

Instructions

1. Bend the knee of your upper leg and take a yogi toe lock on the big toe with your upper hand.

3. Straighten your lifted arm and leg as much as possible, aiming the sole of your foot toward the ceiling..

4. Keep the gaze up, the chest open and the hips lifting.

5. Let go of your toe and do the pose on the other side.

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