Vasisthasana (side plank pose)

vasistha-and-vishvamitra

Vasisthana, literally means “most excellent, best, richest”. Vasistha was an ancient Indian sage(or a series of sages) and was said to be the owner of Nandini, the “cow of plenty” who made him master of every desirable object.

The challenge of this pose is not one of flexibility, but instead how to maintain the neutral alignment of the spine and legs and the simple positions of the arms against the action of gravity. The asymmetrical relationship to gravity means that muscles have to work asymmetrically to create a symmetrical alignment of the body—essentially tadasana turned on its side.

There are many ways that gravity pulls the body out of line in this pose: The spine may twist, the hips may fall forward or the shoulders may fall back (or vice versa), the bottom scapula and bottom leg may both adduct, or the pelvis may fall to the floor. It’s easy to overcompensate by lifting the hips too high or to create lateral flexion of the spine in either direction by either giving in to gravity or overresisting it. Side plank pose is simple, but not easy.

ALIGNMENT
Flatten the shoulder blades against the back
Firm palms on the floor, straighten all fingers
Keep the rectus and transverse abdominus engaged, this keeps the spine stable
Point the toes towards the body in dorsiflexion
Stabilise the hips by contracting the gluteals
Press the weight into the outer edge of the foot and the arm
Engage the triceps and the deltoids
Align the spine diagonally from the head to the feet

PHYSICAL BENEFITS
Stretches the arms, belly and legs
Stretches and strengthens the wrists
Stretches the abdominal muscles, especially the obliques
Improves overall sense of balance
Improves stamina, determination and willpower
Prepares you for arm balancing poses

SPIRITUAL BENEFITS
Helps one to connect with the breath
Increased prana is brought to the neck and shoulders

CONTRAINDICATIONS
Shoulder or rotator cuff injuries should avoid this pose
Wrists, elbow, toe, ankle injuries should perform modified versions

Skye, 200hr YTT January 2016