Yoga Anatomy: Two Steps to a Healthier Side Forearm Plank

Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) is not for everyone. Practiced in small doses, it can strengthen your core, but many people’s hands and wrists and shoulders can suffer as the torso’s weight often collapses into the delicate wrist joints.

Side Forearm Plank is an awesome yoga pose to strengthen your core while protecting your wrists. You do this one by placing your forearm on the mat and attempting to drag it towards your feet, while engaging the core muscles on your sides to stabilize the lumbar pelvic complex. Keep your supporting arm (the humerus bone) straight up and down (at a right angle to the floor). This way the passive strength of the bone aids to support your body weight.

How to Do Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) Safely

(Figure 1: Side Forearm Plank Preparatory Pose )

Step 1

Begin by stabilizing the shoulders. Do this by attempting to externally rotate your forearm on the mat. At the same time, attempt to internally rotate your forearm on the mat as well. It’s a bit like a windshield wiper that’s fixed in place. This cue “co-activates” the infraspinatus and teres minor (external rotation) and the subscapularis (internal rotation) muscles of your rotator cuff. Feel how this stabilizes your shoulder. Folks that are new to this pose can use the preparatory version to work with this cue. Figure 1 shows the prep pose and Figure 2 illustrates the action of the forearms.

( Figure 2: This illustrates the cue for co-activating the external and internal shoulder rotators (the infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis of the rotator cuff).)


Step 2

Next, press the edge of your lower side foot into the mat and gently draw it upwards toward the shin to “evert” your foot. These cues activate a series of muscles—including the “lateral subsystem”—to connect your shoulders and legs to your core. Figure 3 shows the cue for attempting to drag the forearm and the feet towards each other (while engaging the side abs).

Why These 2 Steps Are So Effective for Vasisthasana

Now let’s check out the myofascial connections in Side Forearm Plank. When you press the side of your foot into the mat, you activate the peroneus muscles as well as the abductor muscles up at your hip (the TFL or tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medius). These muscles have a fascial connection to your abdominal muscles, specifically the external oblique (which attaches to the rim of the pelvis). The external oblique connects to your shoulders via the serratus anterior muscle. The serratus anterior is a scapular stabilizer that works in concert with the rotator cuff. So the whole operation helps to integrate your feet, legs, pelvis and lumbar—all the way up to the shoulders.

(Figure 3: This illustrates the cue of everting the lower foot and dragging the elbow towards it. It also shows the deep longitudinal subsystem.)

So let’s talk about the deep longitudinal subsystem.

Your deep longitudinal subsystem is made up of the peroneus longus muscle (on the outside of your lower leg), the biceps femoris of your hamstrings and your sacrotuberous ligament (up in the pelvis), the thoracolumbar fascia and the erector spinae muscles (in your back). The biceps femoris creates a link between the lower extremities and the trunk via the sacrotuberous ligament. This ligament helps to transmit force across your sacrum, and, via the thoracolumbar fascia on up the trunk to your deep back muscles. Check Figure 3 for a color-coded illustration of this connection.

This subsystem is part of the global movement system and is thought to be important in force transmission between your trunk and the ground—as in walking.

Figure 4 shows the myofascial connection between the external oblique muscle (of the abs) and the serratus anterior of the shoulder girdle.

(Figure 4: This illustrates the myofascial connection between the external oblique muscle of the abdomen and the serratus anterior of the shoulder girdle.)

Reprinted with permission from thedailybandha.com

Ray Long MD Author, Ray Long MD, FRCSC is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.                 

Chris Macivor

3d Graphic Designer / Illustrator Chris Macivor has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years. He is a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sheridan College and Seneca College. Chris considers himself to be equally artististic and technical in nature. As such his work has spanned many genres from film and television to videogames and underwater imagery.         

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