Uncompromising Positions: Plank Pose

The no-bullshit yoga instructor, Jessica Boyd, bring us her first weekly installment of yoga poses to rock you to your core.

If someone is a vegan and does CrossFit, which do they talk about first? That’s a trick question, but you can bet that they’ll brag about how long they can hold a plank for.

Plank pose, or the much wordier Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana (Extended four-limbed staff pose), is one of the most quintessential yoga poses. It strengthens the whole body, it takes focus and it is a transition pose for sun salutations and other flows.

Benefits of Plank include: stronger core—both abs and back, strong and stable shoulders, improved posture, and strong arms and wrists.

Contradiction: carpal tunnel. Though after talking to your doctor and getting approval, a yoga practice can help improve the symptoms of carpal tunnel.

To get into Plank Pose, first start on your hands and knees. Make sure that your wrists are right below your shoulders. Spread your fingers apart and face them forward. Now rotate the inside of your elbows forward. This movement happens in your shoulders, from the socket—your whole arm rotates outward. Do not push into your elbows. Press evenly into your hands. You’ll feel your triceps engage to help hold your arms in this rotation. Now that your arms are solid and your shoulder cuff is protected by the rotation, you can extend your legs straight back. Curl your toes under and press back through your heels. Feet come hip distance apart. Hip distance is the distance between your actual hip sockets, or about two fists could fit side by side between your feet. Your body ends up in a relatively straight line, like a plank of wood.

Once you are in your plank, it’s time to check in on what’s going on with your body. Did that shoulder/arm rotation stay rotated? If not, re-rotate. Are you pressing through your arms, engaging your shoulders and back? Are you reaching back through your heels thus engaging your whole leg? Is your belly button pulled up and in? Are you slowly melting to the floor?! If you feel like you’re not strong enough and melting from the hips, then you should drop your knees. To modify this way, first come into full plank, then drop your knees straight down so your body is still in a long line. Hold for at least three breaths or as long as you can without compromising your posture.

With practice, plank becomes easier and you will reap the physical benefits from it. Happy practicing!