I often feel that side plank or Vasisthasana has become the burpee of yoga. On one hand, it’s so, so good for you. On the other hand, the minute students in class realize that the next pose is side plank, there’s usually a sea of groans or at least a bunch of not-so-happy faces.

Granted, this pose takes a ton of strength to perform correctly, and very often I see it done with some really wacky alignment things going on. Additionally, the full expression of the pose can be tough on those with pre-existing wrist, elbow, and shoulder issues.

So, in this installment of Yoga 101, we’re breaking down how to get into the pose correctly as well as a bunch of ways to modify it so you can reap the awesome benefits of the pose without making your joints miserable.

How to Soar in Side Plank

The biggest issues I see people struggling with in side plank are (A) poor spinal position/alignment, (B) poor hand positioning, and (C) choosing a version that is too challenging to hold proper form. With respect to Issues (A), it’s important to not let your butt drift back behind you or let your hips sag toward the floor. Also, many people just don’t realize how much the way you place your hand on the mat can affect the way your wrist, elbow and shoulders feel in this pose. I cover “fixes” for both issues at length in this video.

As with all yoga poses, it’s important to understand your current limits and work within them while gradually building up from there. It’s equally important that you use an appropriate version of each pose to help you gain the strength you need to ultimately perform the more challenging versions properly.

One final note: side plank is a pose you should always enter and come out of slowly and thoughtfully. Do not rush into or out of it. I’ve known a few people to get hurt because they stayed in the pose for the maximum amount of time that their strength would allow, saving little strength to transition out of it in a controlled way. When bearing weight on your hands — especially when you’re only on one hand — be mindful of how you come in and out of poses. Trust me, your body will appreciate it and will likely reward you with many more years of practice.

Be sure to check out our previous Yoga 101 posts for tips to improve your Chaturanga, Crow Pose, L-Pose, Handstand, and Wheel Pose.

How do you feel about side plank? —Alison

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