Plank pose is a very basic pose used both in the Yoga asana practice and in sports activities. Although this pose looks to be relatively simple, it is crucial for assessing your body and its readiness for a more intense yoga practice. Sharyn Galindo, President of North Shore Yoga says, "This pose, like several in yoga, tends to go untaught, and teachers assume students are versed in the nuances of the pose. This is a mistake. Plank pose like downward facing dog is a great tool for analyzing how strong one is in their core. It is also a great indicator as to how well a yogi is connected to his body and how well he can stay relaxed while engaging his body in a relatively intense activity."
The best way to get to this pose is to start in downward facing dog. From there, press forward so your shoulders are over your wrist joint. Make sure wrists are directly under the shoulders at a 90 degree angle. The body should be in one line from the top of your head to your heels. Do not dip or raise your hips, but slightly lift your tailbone while pressing your lower abdomen out. You want to maintain a natural curve to the low back. You need to push back through your heels and forward through a neutral neck out through the top of the head. At the same time, press firmly down through your whole hand, and do not let your chest sink.
While here, make sure you have a hand that is totally engaged into the floor. Make sure hands are flat and fingers spread, with even spacing between each finger. Don't press so firmly in this pose that you end up with a hyper-extended elbow. Then gently slide your shoulder blades down your back so your shoulders are away from your ears and your neck is elongated. Your head should be a natural extension of the spine. If you have slight pressure in the lower back, tilt the pelvis up or down until the feeling dissipates. Legs should be strong, straight and engaged. Your heels should point straight up to the sky, and your feet should be square.
Now start to connect to your breath developing it fully. Allow the breath to expand into the abdomen that is pressed outward. As the breath envelopes you cultivate a sense of relaxation and non-attachment throughout the body. Become aware of any tension that is held in the face or jaw and consciously let it go. Start with five breaths and work up to twenty. See if you can do this without becoming reactive or struggling with the pose.
Performed properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits of plank pose include:
- Strong arms, wrists, spine, quads, abdominals
- Firm abdomen
- Proper body alignment
- Reduced low back and shoulder pain
For the lay person or yogi, plank pose elongates the body and lengthens the neck. It helps the determination of a neutral body position. Building back strength counteracts the wear and weakening the back undergoes on a daily basis. Developing a strong back and abs at the same time is great for spinal support and better posture. Most importantly, developing a sense of ease and non-attachment in plank pose will serve as a metaphor for the rest of the yogi's asana practice. Master plank pose as described here and your practice will feel easier and you will cultivate power and ease both on your mat and in life's activities.