Strengthen your core with this full body pose.
Plank Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) Step-By-Step Tutorial
Start in the downward facing dog and slowly release your upper body down to the mat by drawing your torso forward until your arms make a 90 degree angle on the floor.
Check your posture. Make sure your shoulders go straight above your wrists and avoid lifting or dipping your hips and backside. Instead, make sure everything is aligned.
With your palms, push on the mat and spread your fingers wide apart to give your upper body more support.
Move your shoulder blades back and forth to increase your mobility, and keep your neck muscles engaged and stretched.
When you finish the mobility exercise, make sure you shoulders are away from your arms and your chest is not sunk to the floor.
Double check to see if your legs, spine, and neck are elongated, and draw a straight line.
Your heels should be pointing upwards. You might want to experiment with their position until you can hold your body weight properly.
Also, make sure your weight is evenly distributed between your wrists and heels.
Gaze down at the mat and hold the pose for as long as you feel comfortable. For beginners, at least 15 seconds is usually recommended.
Release with an exhale and repeat the pose at least three times along with other asanas.
The plank pose will help you build strength and prepare your body for more challenging asanas. But this pose itself is challenging since it forces your wrists and heels to hold your own body weight while engaging your core.
Because the plank pose can be quite challenging at times, there are a few common pitfalls every beginner should avoid.
Failing to Keep the Pelvis in Line with the Body
Often, we tend to lift the pelvis to ensure that our body is elongated and forms a straight line. But if we hold a pose without a mirror near us, especially in the beginning, it is hard for us to figure it out if everything is in the right place.
To fix this, use mirrors around you or practice with a friend who can help you out if you are sinking or raising certain body parts too much.
As you practice more, you will develop enough body awareness to if everything is in the right place without mirrors.
Shoulders and Ears on the Same Level
The shoulders tend to sink and get rounded in many asanas. But this can lead to injuries since your upper back will feel stiff and unnatural in that position.
To fix this, simply lift your head up a little bit from your shoulders and move the shoulder blades back or forward until they are in the desired position.
Another common pitfall is the tendency to bring the elbows out to make it easier for the wrists to hold the weight of the torso. Unfortunately, this strategy does not help much.
To fix this, simply bring your elbows near your torso while keeping them facing inward.
Most asanas focus on opening certain body areas, hips, and the chest area. It might be counterproductive if in you let your chest area sink on the mat.
Instead, focus on lifting your head up and do not allow your chest to go too low.
Draw the shoulder blades against each other to keep your chest area open.
When the legs are unengaged, your knees will have the tendency to drop and stop you from forming that beautiful straight line with your legs, back, and neck.
Instead, the knees disrupt the harmony of the pose by looking weak and falling down. This is caused by unengaged legs.
To prevent this, squeeze your backside and firm your ankles and thighs to provide more support for your legs.
Head and Neck Feels Heavy
If you are already tired or stressed out when you start your Yoga session, a heavy neck or head is a common pitfall.
When we are stressed, we tend to lower our head, and this happens during asanas as well.
Keep your head neutral by making it a goal to maintain a certain distance between you and a point on the mat.
Variations can help you both deepen and make the pose easier, depending on your needs. There are plenty to choose from.
Using Your Fists Instead of Wrists
If you feel pain in your wrists when you try to lift your torso using your arms, you might want to use your fists instead.
The fists are stronger than your wrists regardless of your fitness level, and they can endure more without becoming injured.
Using a Chair
Some of us do not have a flexible back. Others had bad experiences with planks in the past.
To prepare your body for the plank pose in the future, start with an easier version.
Grab a sturdy chair by its edges instead of using your wrists on the mat to hold your upper body weight.
If you want to deepen the pose, you can simply come into the plank pose and cross your left ankle over your right one, engage your upper legs, hold for 3 breaths, and repeat using the other ankle.
Lifting One of Your Legs
In this modified version of the pose, you can lift one of your legs up while you are holding the pose for at least 3 breathes. Then release with an exhale.
Use the other leg and repeat the process at least twice.
If you are just getting started and you are not sure you are ready for a full blown plank pose, you can always go from downward facing dog to the plank pose without moving your hands and feet.
This means you can keep the same distance between your hands and feet in the plank pose as you do in the downward facing dog.
While this kind of stretch does not come with all the benefits of the plank pose, it will help you gain more strength and flexibility and prepare you for more advanced asanas.
Benefits of Plank Pose
While the plank pose is known as one of the best core workouts out there for toning the muscles and increasing lean mass when paired with a diet high in protein, this asana has a number of secondary benefits, including strengthening the legs and wrist as well as improving posture.
Builds Strength in Your Arms and Wrists
When half of your body weight is held by your arms and wrists, building strength is inevitable.
Paired with a diet high in protein, you also have a good chance to build quite a bit of lean mass and improve your performance in other poses as well.
Relives a Stiff Neck
Keeping a neutral, elongated neck requires some effort, which can bring some relief and mobility to a stiff neck.
Some of the muscles that link the back of the neck to the upper back are also stretched during the plank pose, which leads to an increase in the mobility of the neck.
Stretches the Back
A sedentary lifestyle often leads to the weakening of back muscles and a bad posture. The plank pose offers a gentle stretch that refreshes the muscles around the spine and prevents a number of back-related issues.
Strong back muscles can also help alleviate pain as we get older as the pressure put on our backs increases.
Tones the Back Side
It is no secret that keeping your hips in line with your back challenges your muscles in the buttocks area.
If you ever wanted to tone and build some mass in that area but you hate doing squats, the plank pose can help you when performed regularly.
Strengthens the Core
The most challenged part of your body during this pose is your core.
The plank pose is one of the most effective core sculpting techniques out there. It has the advantage of saving time, as even 30 seconds per day for three rounds can make a major difference after only one month.
The Plank Pose and the Solar Plexus Chakra
The plank pose not only makes your body stronger but it also boosts your confidence in your own abilities.
It does so because the asana stimulates the solar plexus chakra, the energetic point that deals with your inner fire and digestive system.
This energetic point is best stimulated in people who are a little bit on the shy side, who hate being put in the spotlight and do not have the motivation to get things done properly.
The plank pose also helps with digestive issues by stimulating the core as well as an energetic point that is linked to this part of the human body.
On the flip side, if your solar plexus chakra is too open in your body, you will experience too much “fire” in your personality. This may include fearlessness, overly confidence, and naivety.
Ideally, you should aspire for a balanced solar plexus. So if you feel like you are on the low side, the plank pose is perfect for you. However, if you exhibit traits that show too much of this chakra in your body, you should probably avoid it.
You should avoid the plank pose if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Did you benefit from this article? Did I miss anything? Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated – please post in the comments and I will personally respond!
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