Vasisthasana (or Side Plank) is a powerful and challenging arm balance that requires strength, flexibility, and balance.
Overflowing with benefits, this posture strengthens the wrists, arms, shoulders, core, and legs while simultaneously stretching the hips, groins, and hamstrings. A quintessential yoga pose of both strength and flexibility, Vasisthasana also requires balance, concentration, and grace to practice with ease. As with all yoga poses, a keen attention to the breath creates stamina in this difficult asana.
Due to the fact that Vasisthasana is no easy feat, it is wise to practice preparatory poses to work toward the full expression of the posture.
The following six postures are all excellent prep poses for Vasisthasana:
Finding proper alignment and engagement within the hands is essential to be able to practice Vasisthasana. Table Top is the perfect place to practice this engagement without too much weight bearing. Practicing spreading the fingers wide and evenly spacing them apart and “clawing” at the mat with the fingertips creates a strong and stable foundation for Side Plank.
Challenging the arms, legs, and core and creating full body strength, Plank Pose is a great prep for the challenge of taking this same posture onto one arm in Side Plank.
Building strength and stability within the shoulder girdle is essential to maintain integrity within the shoulder joints in Side Plank. Dolphin Pose is a great way to build strength and engagement in these very mobile joints.
Specifically targeting the muscles of the core, this posture will help to build strength and stamina to be able to support the weight of the body with the strength of the core. Adding twists within Boat Pose will work to awaken and strengthen the obliques—key muscles of the core utilized in Vasisthasana.
As full Vasisthasana requires lots of hamstring flexibility, folding forward to release the back body will help to create the necessary space in the legs to practice the full expression of Side Plank.
As this posture is essentially the same shape as full Vasisthasana, it is an excellent prep to warm up the hips, groins, and hamstrings and to prepare the body for balance.
Modifications of Vasisthasana
Because full Side Plank is such a challenging posture, it can be modified and adapted in many ways to suit just about any practice level of yogis. The following are just a few on the modifications and variations of this pose that you can practice—to build strength, modify for injuries, or just practice in their own right:
How to Practice Full Vasisthasana
Make sure to fully warm up before attempting to practice the full expression of this pose. When you’re ready, follow these steps, being sure to pay attention to all the subtle movements of the body and small details of alignment:
- Start in Plank Pose with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and your feet together. Spread your fingers wide and evenly space them apart. Bring your feet to touch.
- Shift your weight into your right hand and become light in your left hand. Roll to the pinky side of your right foot and stack your left foot directly on top of it.
- Lift your left hand off the floor and draw it to your hip. Firmly press the floor away from you with your right hand and foot and lift your hips up away from the floor. Roll your torso open toward the left side of your mat.
- Lift your left foot off of your right and bend your knee deeply as you draw it toward your chest.
- Take hold of your left big toe with a yogi’s toe lock with your left hand (looping your first and middle fingers and thumb around the toe).
- Externally rotate your left hip so that your toes point up toward the sky and then begin to kick your foot up, straightening your leg as much as possible.
- Maintain your foundation pressing the floor away from you and send energy up through your left leg. Draw your left shoulder in toward its socket.
- Hold for five deep breaths before switching to the opposite side.
Vasisthasana is a challenging (but super fun!) asana that is an excellent addition to any yogi’s arsenal. With so many strengthening and stretching benefits, and the ability to help improve balance, concentration, and focus, Side Plank is the perfect pose to find balance between effort and ease and strength and surrender. It is the epitome of yoga.