This shape builds some serious strength in the entire body. It challenges the mind, heats every inch of our being, and is as essential foundation to master for growing into other more challenging postures. As always, listen to your body and practice caution with any asana.
There are a number of ways to come into plank during your practice, but for this post, we’ll begin from Table Top. Once you’ve built a strong foundation in table, extend one leg back (and then the other), pressing into the mat with the balls of the feet and bottoms of the toes. Activate your shoulders, core, glutes, and legs, using the strength of your front and back body to keep you lifted. Explore the breath via inhaling and exhaling through the nose and utilizing the abdominal muscles to remain stable in the core.
DIG A LITTLE DEEPER
Explore all of the ways your body can participate in keeping you active and stable from fingers to toes. Your hands and fingers are gripping into the mat. The muscles around your ribcage are fired up. Neck is neutral and not straining in any way. Feel how your bones work as a system to carry your weight and continue to make choices with them that make you feel strong as hell.
PROPS AND OTHER VARIATIONS
- Set your knees down onto the mat. Rather than setting them under your hips as in Table, set them further back in order to feel glute and lower abdominal activation.
- Alternative between both variations based on your strength and energy levels.
I can’t say it enough: plank is a serious strength builder. From the arms and shoulders, to the core, and all the way down to the feet, every inch of your body is working. You’re literally holding your entire body up from the floor and gravity will not let you forget it.
I have a love/hate relationship with planks. BUT, they are one of those shapes that really show what parts of my body need to wake up a bit more.
It doesn’t take long for my mind to start taking over, telling me stories about how my body is feeling which might not necessarily be true. I evaluate: What hurts? Does it actually hurt? Are you just tired or avoiding something difficult? Where is your body taking the brunt of the weight and what area could stand to take more?
Many, including myself, tend to have sleepy buns (glutes) and forget to engage the muscles around the rib cage (serratus anterior) and ask too much of the shoulders. Other folks have other imbalances. Recognizing what isn’t firing or even working too hard is where the practice comes in. Movement choices are patterns and when we aren’t moving or stabilizing in the most efficient way, we need to change those patterns.
Planking is hard. And anyone that’s sick of them should approach each one with a beginner’s mind because there’s always something new to explore.
Lastly, there’s nothing wrong with planking on your knees. I’ll say that again: there’s nothing wrong with planking on your knees. When you set your knees down, all you’re doing is lessening the amount of weight you’re working with. If it’s still challenging, then dammit you’re doing it right. It’s a great opportunity to work on the foundations again; your connection of mind to body. I fully support it. And you should too.
Make the shape work with your body – not the other way around. Get strong as hell on them knees and when you are, lift them up.
So go on! Get your Plank on. Let me know how it goes.