I LOVE plank pose. I incorporate it into every class I teach. Plank is a major player in Sun Salutations and is often used as a transitional pose, along with its counterpart Chaturanga Dandasana, but it’s a posture in its own right and it’s great for building strength and stamina.
Plank pose builds strength in the core, the shoulders, the arms, the wrists, and the spine. It is considered an arm balance and is often used to prepare the body for more challenging arm balances.
I actually had to look up the Sanskrit name for plank pose because I’ve never heard it used and I had no idea what it was. I found it goes by a few names: Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana, Kumbhakasana, and Phalakasana. Let’s break those down.
Utthita means ‘extended’ or ‘high’, chaturanga means ‘having four limbs’, danda means ‘stick’ or ‘staff, and asana, as we know, means ‘posture’. So…extended, or high four-limbed staff pose, or High Chaturanga – makes sense.
Another name is Kumbhakasana – kumbhaka means ‘retained breath’; so, retained breath pose. From what I’ve read, in the traditional practice of this pose, you would hold your breath for a brief moment before lowering your body into either Chaturanga Dandasana or Ashtanga Namaskara (knees, chest, chin). For our purposes, we will not hold the breath.
And lastly, it is also knows as Phalakasana. This one is the most straight forward – phalaka means ‘plank,’ ‘board’ or ‘bench’ in Sanskrit. So…plank pose 🙂
You can come into plank pose from downward facing dog or tabletop position, but since we’re building on a series of postures, we’ll enter it from our last pose – Ardha Uttanasana.
From Ardha Uttanasana:
- Bring the palms flat onto the ground, bending the knees if necessary
- Step one foot way back into a low lunge position, then step the other foot to meet it, staying on the front balls of the feet
- Stack the shoulders directly above the wrists
- Spread the fingers wide, pointing your index fingers forward so that they are parallel to each other
- Press firmly down into the base of your fingers, distributing the weight evenly across the hands
- Pull the shoulders away from the ears
- Feel the shoulder blades spread on the back as you press the ground away
- Imagine closing the space between your low ribs and your pelvis, keeping the belly pulling up
- Keep the legs straight, press back with your heels
- Pull the kneecaps up toward the hips to activate the quadriceps
- Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels
- Bring the gaze towards the front edge of your mat
- Bring the knees down into half plank
Benefits of Plank Pose:
- Tones the legs, back and core muscles
- Strengthens the arms, wrists, and shoulders
- Strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, which improves posture
- If practiced for several minutes, builds endurance and stamina, while toning the nervous system
- Increases flexibility in the feet.