Plank, Side
VASISTHĀSANA (वसिष्ठासन)
(vah-sish-TAH-sah-nah)

 


‘Vasistha’= a sage, most excellent, ‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Side Arm Balance
Lateral Incline Plane
Sage Vasistha’s Pose
Vasistha’s Pose

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Pose Type: Balance / Stretch / Strength

1. Start in Plank (Phalakasana), with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your feet tucked under so that you are on the balls of your feet. You should have a straight line from the crown of your head down to your heels at a slight decline.
2. Shift your weight to your left arm and hand as you pull the right side of your body up to the sky and stack your right knee and foot onto your left knee and foot. Spread the fingers on your left hand to root your left palm into the mat.
3. Engage your quadriceps, lift your hips, and tuck in your tailbone. Your spine should be straight, and your hips in alignment and squared forward, as you lengthen your spine so that you have a straight line from the top of your head, down your back, through your hips and legs, to your feet.
4. Lift your right arm up to the sky with your palm open and facing forward. Make sure your shoulders are stacked so that your arms are straight from wrist to wrist making your body look like a ‘T’.
5. Tighten your core and glutes to keep your balance as well as your alignment. You can either gaze forward (with your chin in line with the navel) or up toward your hand.
6. Hold this pose for several breaths, breathing deeply (at least 20 seconds to build strength).
7. When you are ready, release back into Plank (Phalakasana) and repeat on the other side.

Common Adjustments
• Neck strained
• Unbalanced
• Hips sagging
• Not a straight line from head to feet
• Feet and ankles not stacked / Shoulders not stacked
• Lower back arched
• Knees too low and out of alignment
• Wrist and shoulders not aligned so that you have a straight line from hand to hand
• Chest not open

Modifications
• For beginners, students who have difficulty with balance, have shoulders problems, or need to build strength/confidence, they can practice with the bottom knee and shin to the mat. The knee should be angled so that their foot is pointing behind with the top of their foot down. If they experience knee discomfort, place a folded mat or blanket under the knee for support.
• Students with kyphosis or curvature of the spine, can also practice the above while resting the top arm along the body. Alternatively, they can either: a) bend their elbow and place their hand on their hip or b) move the top leg forward so that the foot is flat on the mat in front of the bottom foot to help hold their weight and help them balance.
• Students with wrist injuries can either: a) practice with their hand in fists, resting on the knuckles, b) place a folded mat or blanket under their wrist for support, c) place their hand farther ahead of the shoulder, or d) practice Dolphin Side Plank to reduce or eliminate pressure.
• Students with neck injuries should keep their gaze down toward the mat.
• Students that need help gripping their feet to the mat can practice next to a wall so that they can place the soles of their feet to the wall.
• Pregnant students (after first trimester), students that have difficulty balancing, or students that have back problems, can leave the top foot on the ground, in front of the bottom foot, rooted to the mat.
• For students who would like to get a more intense stretch, they can either: a) extend their arm up and then thread it under the body, and repeat, b) reach their arm overhead, stretching to the wall behind their head, or c) they can extend their top arm and either leg out, while holding the big toe or their foot.

Counter Poses
• Cat (Marjaryasana)
• Child’s Pose (Balasana)
• Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana)
• Crocodile (Makarasana)
• Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
• Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Anatomy
• Neck• Shoulders (Deltoids)
• Chest• Biceps and Triceps
• Wrists• Abdomen (Core) and Obliques
• Hips• Quadriceps and Hamstrings
• Gluteus Medius• Calf muscles and Ankles

Benefits
• Strengthens and stretches the neck, shoulder, chest, back, biceps, triceps, forearms, wrists, abdomen, obliques, spine, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, ankles, and feet.
• Lengthens the spine and helps correct posture and alignment, which increases stability and balance. This also helps to reduce back pain.
• Improves concentration by focusing on balance, which also helps to reduce stress and mild anxiety, while developing willpower, confidence, and endurance. This also improves memory.
• Relieves anxiety, fear, migraines / stress related headaches, insomnia / nervous exhaustion, fatigue, and reduces stress by loosening the muscles, increasing circulation, and calming the nervous system.

Contraindications
1. Students with severe arm, shoulder, or wrist injuries should avoid this pose.
2. Students with a hernia, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, heart conditions, or shoulder, back, or wrist injuries should use caution in the pose as well as seek guidance and modifications.

Chakras
Chakra Three:Solar Plexus, Self-Power, or Manipura (lustrous gem) Chakra. This is the combustion, power, and energy chakra. Its goals are vitality, strength of will, and purpose. Its location is the solar plexus.
Chakra Four:Heart, Love, or Anahata (Unstuck) Chakra. This is the love and equilibrium chakra. Its goals are balance, compassion, and acceptance. Its location is the heart.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – Supine and Prone Postures as “Vasishthasana – Side Plank Pose”.
    • Watch the Chapter 9 video “Vasishthasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthew, this posture can be found in Chapter 13 – ARM SUPPORT POSES as “VASISTHASANA – Side Plank Pose, Sage Vasistha’s Pose”.

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