Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)
How to do it
Begin on your hands and knees. Lift your knees off the ground and extend your legs. Shift the weight to your left hand and turn sideways, stacking your shoulders on top of each other and feet on top of each other (or keeping the top foot in front of the bottom one). Look forward or up, whatever is more comfortable for your neck.
Breathing in Vasisthasana
Inhale: Lift up on your left hand and widen the chest. Try to lift the right side of your pelvis up toward the ceiling and reach up with your hand. Keep lifting your chest away from your navel.
Exhale: Progressively contract your abdomen and engage your legs.
Stay in the pose for several breaths, then switch sides.
One foot behind
Vasisthasana: One foot behind is a slightly more stable version of the pose because both feet are in contact with the ground. This might give us more leverage to lift the pelvis higher up toward the ceiling to intensify the stretch on one side and contraction on the other side.
Vasisthasana: On forearm works best for students with wrist issues. It also brings the body closer to ground, which makes the pose a bit more stable. You can do most other pose adaptations from this position.
Vasisthasana: Arm sweep loosens up the neck and shoulder and intensifies the stretch in the lateral structures of the body. It also requires more stabilization from the shoulder of the supporting arm.
Arm behind the back
Kneeling Vasisthasana: Arm behind the back stretches the side of the neck and the front of the shoulder. Since the body is supported by the knee, the load no longer rests solely on your arm. This means that the pose is not nearly as challenging and much more stable. Having a stable base allows us to shift attention to the neck and shoulder and work with them more precisely.
Arm over head
Kneeling Vasisthasana: Arm over head provides a deep stretch of the lateral structures of the torso, as well as hip flexors, abductors and IT band. Looking up also strengthens the side of the neck. Since the body is supported by the knee, we can focus our attention on the lateral stretch.
Vasisthasana: Cross over is a strong pose that is used to strengthen the core and all the muscles that bind the shoulder girdle to the ribcage and spine. The bottom shoulder has to negotiate a shifting load, which makes it more challenging both for larger, moving and smaller, stabilizing muscles. This pose also works the obliques, transverse abdominis and erector spinae muscles.
Vasisthasana: Knee out introduces the “pelvic opening” element to the pose and stretches the inner thigh muscles of the top leg, while strengthening the abductors of the same hip. Bending the knee also increases the balancing challenge in the pose, since the weight distribution of the lower body has now changed. It also makes it more difficult to lift the side of the pelvis up toward the ceiling.
Vasisthasana: Toe hold is the most challenging version of the pose. It combines the balancing challenge, the arm support challenge and the “pelvic opening” challenge. Here, “pelvic opening” stretches the structures of the pelvis, groin, inner thigh and perineal area, while strengthening the muscles on the opposite side (hip abductors and rotators). It is better to keep the raised leg fairly straight and actively extended outwards, otherwise we run the risk of collapsing the chest and losing our balance. This means that our hamstrings, abductors and external rotators need to be able to accommodate this position. This requires intentional preparation, since excessive or inadequately prepared for stretching in those areas may compromise the stability of the hip and sacroiliac joints.