Next up in our Yogarda series of yoga tutorials is a slow but very effective way to build up strength in your shoulders, arms, hands, fingers and your core. While poses like Ustrasana and Purvottanasana, which we explained previously, are great as a calm down / stretch out after climing (or sitting in front of a computer for too long), the following versions of Side Plank work great as a warm up before your next session or to train for your next adventure on the rocks (like the Yogarda Fall Edition in Arco in September).
Ardha Vasisthasana (Half Side Plank Pose)
Start on hands and knees with your right hand slightly in front of your shoulder and the right knee in line behind it. Root down firmly through all four corners of your right hand (index finger mount, little finger mount, thumb mount & outer edge of the palm) and press each fingertip into the ground (they can even be a bit white). Stretch your left leg out behind you and bring your heel down 90° to the right, so your left heel aligns with your right knee and hand, and bring your left hand to your hip.
If this is tricky for you to balance, you can pivot on your right knee to bring your right foot out behind you (off the mat) for more stability.
Make sure that your right shoulder is not coming forward but the top of the arm bone is integrated into the shoulder joint by pulling the shoulder blade on to your back. Activate your core by energetically drawing your navel and chest towards each other without rounding your spine. If you feel comfortable here, lift your left arm up into the sky, stacking your shoulders on top of each, and bring your gaze up as well.
Either stay for a couple of breaths before you repeat on the second side, or continue with the next variation on the same side to build up to the full pose – and maybe even some variations…
Vasisthasana Core Strength Variation
While any version of Side Plank enhances strength in your core, you can intensify the work of your side body by lifting the bottom leg any amount off the ground. In the Half Side Plank outlined above, look down make sure your whole left foot is on the ground and powerfully press down through the inner edge of the foot and your right hand to see if you can lift the right knee. Maybe just a couple of millimeters, maybe a whole centimeter – every little bit counts!
Eventually, you’ll be able to lift the whole leg and rest its heel on left knee. Try to bring your gaze towards your top hand again, playing with your balance, and maybe taking it one step further – stretching the bottom (right) leg out in front of you! This is the ultimate core strengthener, so take it easy and ask too much of yourself at once.
Make sure your hip is not dropping but keep arching up through the whole left side, pressing all four corners of the right hand and the whole left foot down strongly. This rooting down will give you more strength to rise up. Avoid any pain in your bottom wrist while you’re here – if they are not used to bearing your whole body weight, allow them some tim to adjust. Really using your fingertips here will not only help you distribute your weight throughout the whole hand (away from the delicate wrist joint) but also increase strength in your fingers and all muscles of your hand, which is more than beneficial for climbing as well…
Journey to Vasisthasana
While you can enter the full version of Side Plank Pose from the Core Strength Variation, it’s easier if you come out of the pose first and set up from regular Plank Pose.
With your wrist slightly in front of your shoulders, belly firm and your heels pressing back, let both feels sink to the right and take your left hand to your hip. You can stay with the left foot in front of the right if balancing here is hard, or take up the challenge and place your left foot on top of the right. Keeping both feet flexed will help you keep your legs and core strong. Press down through all four corners of your right to lift your hips and find one strong line from the outer edge of the left foot all the way to your shoulders.
If you feel stable, you can extend your left arm on top of your right and shift your gaze towards your top hand as well.
Play Time: Vrksa Vasisthasana
Once you get comfortable in the „regular“ side plank, you can add an interesting variation to challenge your sense of balance even further and in turn building up even more core strength. To add a bit of „Tree pose“, bend and lift the left knee up towards the sky. Use your gaze to find a focus point – also called „drishti“ in yoga – to help you keep your balance and concentration by anchoring your awareness. Wobbling is absolutely normal here, especially the first couple of times you try this! Don’t worry and laugh if you fall out – that means additional training for your core and more learning experiences for your muscle memory.
Either keep the left foot lifted or place its sole against the inside of the right thigh for a Vrskasana (Tree Pose) Variation in your Side Plank. Press the right thigh against the foot with equal strength as you use to press down, and try to keep pointing your left knee straight up into the sky. If you’re tight around the hips, you will feel a little stretch here as and added bonus.
Keep your gaze down or shift it up, and don’t forget to breathe and smile! Those are the two things, that make everything easier – in yoga, in climbing, and in life…
Hit me up if you have any questions and join my „Yoga for Climbing“ courses in Munich or Innsbruck to learn more!