Plank pose, which is called kumbhakasana in Sanskrit, is one of the most foundational poses, or asanas, in yoga. Plank is often done as part of the sun salutation sequence, or as part of a vinyasa in a yoga flow sequence. There are two variations of plank pose: kumbhakasana (full plank) and vasisthasana (side plank). Practicing plank pose will help you flow effortlessly into most yoga asanas while strengthening your arms, shoulders, back, and core. Practicing regularly may also improve your posture. If you are looking for some variation or just a new fitness challenge, then try adding plank poses to your exercise routine.
Begin on all fours.
If you are new to yoga or not especially flexible, prepare yourself to perform plank pose by starting on all fours. Make sure that you will be comfortable by using a yoga mat. You may also place a folded up blanket under your knees if you need some extra padding for your knees.
Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips.
The tops of your feet can either be flat on the floor or you can curl your toes if you choose.
Inhale and exhale evenly through your nose. If you can, make a slight sound like the sea when you breathe. This is called ujayyi breathing and can help you flow through your routine more effectively.
Exhale and push back to child’s pose.
To do child’s pose, or balasana, remain on your hands and knees and move your bottom back towards your feet. Allow your thighs to spread out to the same width as your shoulders as you do this and sink your chest towards the mat. Your hand should stay out in front of you with your palms on the yoga mat.
Stretch your arms and head forward and breathe through this pose.
You can rest your forehead on the mat as well.
Allow your shoulder to relax and release as you sink deeper into the stretch.
Hold this pose for about five breaths or for as long as you like.
Hinge forward to plank pose.
When you are ready, push your body up from child’s pose and back onto your hands and knees. Then, move into a plank pose, or kumbhakasana. Position your shoulders over your hands and straighten your legs as you rise up onto the balls of your feet. When you are in position, you should look like you are preparing to do a push up.
Make sure to keep your abs engaged and spine long. Don’t pop your bum up.
Your feet should be hip width apart and flexed with your heels pushing backwards for extra stability.
Keep your elbows close to your ribs, and pull your shoulders down and away from your head to keep them from collapsing, which will lengthen your neck.
Drop down to your forearms if desired.
You can stay up on the palms of your hands if you want, or you can drop down onto your forearms to make the plank a little more challenging. This variation is called the dolphin plank pose.
Make sure to keep your spine straight and your bottom down, as with the regular plank pose. Direct your face and eyes towards the floor as you hold the pose.
Breathe for three to five breaths as you hold this pose.
When you are finished holding your dolphin plank, get back onto your hands and knees so that you can move into child’s pose. You can either drop down onto your stomach and then rise up onto your hands and knees, or you can move back up into a plank on your palms and then get onto your hands and knees.
Return to child’s pose.
After you’ve stayed in plank for three to five breaths, exhale, get onto your hands and knees, and then hinge back to child’s pose. Give your body a chance to rest in child’s pose for a few breaths before you proceed with any further poses.
Inhale and exhale steadily for as many breaths as you like.
You can do another plank after you finish with child’s pose, or finish your practice here.
Try advanced plank poses.
Once you’ve mastered the full plank, you can challenge yourself with more difficult variations. Don’t progress to these until you are strong enough to keep your body straight and stable throughout the entire movement.
Do a single leg plank by slowly lifting one foot at a time off the ground. Then, lower that leg after a few breaths and repeat on the other side.
Do a single arm plank by slowly reaching one arm out in front of you. After a few breaths, lower that arm and repeat with the other arm. Make sure your hips remain stable and don’t rock from side to side.
Finish your plank practice.
After you’ve done a few rounds of plank pose, finish your practice. From the plank pose, gently lower your knees to the floor. Then, transition into child’s pose again and breathe. Take three to five breaths in child’s pose to complete your routine.
If you want some extra rest, stay in child’s pose for longer.
Start on your hands and knees.
If you are new to yoga or not especially flexible, prepare yourself to perform side plank pose, or vasisthasana, by starting on all fours. Make sure that you are on a yoga mat to make the position more comfortable. You can also place a folded blanket under your knees for some extra padding.
Position your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips.
Take a few breaths and hold this position.
Push your seat to your heels.
Keeping your hands in the same place, push your seat back towards your heels. Keep your hands palms down on the mat in front of you. This position is called child’s pose, which is also known as balasana.
Stay in this position for three to five breaths.
Get into plank pose.
From child’s pose, inhale and hinge forward at your hips back onto your hands and knees. Then, get into a regular plank pose, or kumbhakasana. Take a few breaths and hold this position.
Remember to keep your abs engaged and your spine long. Don’t let your bottom stick up. Keep it aligned with the rest of your body.
Keep your feet hip width apart and flexed, with your weight resting on the balls of your feet.
Keep your chest open by pulling your shoulders down towards the mat.
Roll your body to the right.
Exhale and roll your body to the right while lifting your right arm and placing your right foot and leg over your left foot and leg. Your left arm and left leg should be supporting the weight of your body. Hold the side plank, or vasisthasana, for three to five breaths. Maintain proper alignment to build muscle and minimize the risk for injury.
Your supporting hand should be straight and slightly in front of your shoulder. Keeping your palm firmly placed on the floor and engaging your triceps muscle can help stabilize you.
Your left arm, hand, and fingers should be extended fully towards the ceiling.
Make sure to engage your core and your back muscles.
It may help to imagine that you are pressing against a wall that is behind your body as you hold this pose.
Return to plank pose.
After you’ve held the side plank for three to five breaths, inhale and roll yourself back into plank pose, kumbhakasana. Stay here for a breath or two to give yourself a rest before performing side plank on your left side.
Roll towards your left side.
Exhale and roll your body to the left, so that your right arm and right leg are supporting your body weight. Follow the same procedure as you did for your right side and hold this pose for three to five breaths before finishing your side plank practice.
Attempt different variations of side plank.
If you’ve mastered side plank pose, you can attempt more difficult variations of side plank. Remember to practice these asanas only when you’ve mastered side plank to help minimize the risk of injury.
In a simple side plank, you can push your lower hip upwards to engage your obliques more. This will also stretch your right flank more deeply.
You can also do side plank with one leg by raising the top leg slightly off of the bottom leg. Do this for one to two seconds.
End your side plank practice.
Once you’ve done a couple of rounds of vasisthasana, end your practice by returning to plank pose and then to child’s pose. You can finish either in child’s pose or on your hands and knees like you began your practice.