Vasisthasana | Side plank
Vasistha: most excellent, best, richest
Our asana (posture) of the week is one of strength & balance, known as Vasisthasana (side plank). Most of us hear the word "plank" and automatically think "core, core, core". And rightfully so. This posture is a great way to enhance & strengthen the core, by bringing all of our attention to the center of our being. A great tip to keeping the posture upright, is engaging and focusing on keeping our belly muscles active and in, activating our Agni (inner fire) to prevent from sagging the hips. But this asana does not stop here. In fact, Vasisthasana is a great pose to encompass multiple aspects & areas of the body. On a strictly physical level, this asana does not only target our core, but also the arms, wrists, & legs. This posture demands full body alignment & concentration to maintain balance.
Another key component to mastering this asana is arm strength. Side plank requires you to balance on one arm, therefore profoundly working not only the arm, but wrist & shoulder as well. When done correctly, your balancing arm is strong & engaged - but not locked (hyper extended) or collapsed in the shoulder. It may feel more difficult at first, but your body will thank you in the end!
The full expression of this asana, with the top leg raised towards the sky also calls for great strength found in the legs and can be very physically challenging for most beginners. To maintain this posture upright, you will need to support and "lift" from your legs. As with the arms, it's important to keep the knees unlocked. Strengthen the thighs and press through the heels towards the floor. Align your entire body into one long, diagonal line from heels all the way to the crown of your head. With all this strengthening, it might be difficult to remember the great balance that is necessary in this asana. While maintaining the alignment of your body and the focus on your supporting hand, you may eventually look up and over towards the hand that's directed to the sky, a great feat for balance. But with all this said, you may also find yourself in this posture, belly button toward the spine, supporting arm starting to shake, your hips slowly sagging, and asking yourself "when will this be over?". But this is where the real work begins. When the body is working to this extent, we have the opportunity to either get lost in thought or bring our focus back to the present moment and on our victorious breath.
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