Plank Pose. You don't have to be in a yoga class to have encountered Plank Pose...this pose is everywhere, which is fitting because if done correctly, you'll feel it EVERYWHERE.
So let's break Plank Pose down so you can 'love' it more:
- Place hands directly under shoulders, or a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Walk feet back to create your plank. Toes down, heels lifted over toes. I like my feet to be hip-width distance apart.
- Spread your fingers and press down through each knuckle, especially the triads of the hands (thumbs and index fingers) to avoid any outer wrist pain. Push your heels away from you.
- Squeeze your legs. One of the most common mistakes in plank pose is that the legs are left hanging, without any focus on the muscular activation in the quadriceps. Once the legs are involved, the pose gets easier as the arms don't have to do all the work. So straighten the legs, and squeeze the kneecaps!
- Modify the pose if needed by dropping the knees. All other alignments cues will be the same (just with your knees on the ground).
- Widen across your chest/collarbone. Externally rotate the upper arms -- this means, turn the biceps toward the front of the mat, and wrap the triceps toward the back of the mat. My teacher, Baron Baptiste, often cues this rotation to be "like you're opening pickle jars in opposite directions."
- Create scapular protraction by pulling the shoulder blades apart and pushing the upper spine toward the sky. Be careful not to round into cat pose (that's why it is necessary to continue widening across the chest). It's challenging to create a widening across both the front and back body, but it'll help you to engage your serratus anterior muscles.
- On to the belly now. Pull the pit of the belly in and up. Shorten the distance between the lowest rib and the hip bones by contracting the abdominal muscles.
- Do NOT let the belly sag and the lower ribs drop toward the ground! This will hurt your lower back in the long run, and will also put more unnecessary weight on your hands/wrists.
- What's going on with the butt? Ensure that the tailbone is drawing toward the heels (it will be if you are engaging your abs). Also be careful to NOT lift your butt toward the sky (like in a weird half-downward dog).
- Think LENGTH - from crown of the head to heals. Get long. Get strong.
- Try to hold for 30 seconds. Then one minute, etc. Oh and breathe!!