Vasisthasana Side Plank Pose Modifications and Accessibility
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, ERYT500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, ERYT500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP, CAADC
Vasisthasana modifications are an important piece of accessible yoga. We want to learn how to maintain the integrity of this posture without the balancing challenge and the pressure on the wrists. Let's begin by discussing the traditional posture and then we will look at Vasisthasana modifications and accessibility options.
Probably the most common of Vasisthasana modifications is to lower the bottom knee. This accessibility option for side plank makes sense for many people.
By lowering the bottom knee, we take out a lot of the balance challenge in the posture and the bottom shin shares in weight bearing which eases the burden on the core to stabilize and takes some of the pressure off of the wrist. You can always use a block under the bottom hand if that feels good in this posture. The gaze can be up towards the top hand or out in front. Another variation here is to lift the top leg.
This is one of my favorite side plank modifications. It can be helpful to practice side plank with the top leg bent and the top foot planted on the floor in front of you because it takes some of the pressure off of the wrist. This variation gives us the opportunity to really open through the front body and cultivate a sense of balance.
To come into this variation, start in tabletop. Scoot your right knee a bit to the right so that it aligns with the right wrist. Next, start to extend the left leg long and roll the left side of the body open as you shift the weight into the right hand and right knee. The right shin should come parallel with the short side of the mat.
Stack the shoulders and extend the left arm straight up to the sky. The drishti can be up towards the left hand or it can be straight ahead if that feels better in your body.
Practicing side plank on the wall is an excellent option for increasing body awareness in this posture. Vasisthasana accessibility can be complicated for many people and when we practice this side plank variation on the wall we are able to feel all of the intended movements in our body without the distractions of balancing on the mat. It helps us to learn where we are in space with the same bodily experience of the posture on the mat while having the added support to build confidence and strength.
To come into this variation of Vasisthasana, begin standing a little more than arm's reach from the wall. Line your right side body up with the wall and then bring the palm of the right hand onto the wall with the fingertips pointing up. Take an inhale and lengthen through the crown of the head and then step about a foot more away from the wall.
Start to press into the right hand and start to roll onto the outer edge of the right foot. Draw the inner thighs towards each other and zip up through the inseam of both legs. The left heel may stack on the right heel, or you may keep the left foot grounded. Keep the core strong and maintain length through both sides of the body. The chest should stay lifted. Extend the left arm out to the side, in line with the shoulder. The gaze can be out towards the left hand or straight ahead.
Side plank with a chair is a great variation if you want to experience the posture without dumping so much weight into your bottom hand. When you start by teaching Vasisthasana on the wall, you can then move to a chair as you're ready to take on a bit more weight. Using the support of the chair still helps you to find the integrity of the posture without bearing all of the weight.
Another one of my favorite Vasisthasana modifications is to practice with two blocks under the hands. This helps us to create space and keep some of the pressure off of the wrists. In this variation of side plank, the feet can be stacked or staggered.
The next progression in side plank is to work with one block under the hand instead of two. We have gradually progressed down to the floor and we are now in a diagonal position to the earth. The block can be helpful in keeping some space. In this variation of side plank, you may choose to stack the feet or stagger them.
After practicing Vasisthasana for many years, I choose to use the block regularly because it protects my wrists and keeps me from dumping into my bottom shoulder. I tend to find more openness in the chest this way and don't feel like I'm collapsing into the posture. Everyone's body is unique and that's what accessible yoga is all about. Through exploring so many options, we are able to find what works in our own body.
Founder of Online Yoga School and Yoga & Ayurveda Center
Steph has over 25 years of experience in yoga and movement. Her understanding of yoga and the human body has been influenced by lifelong dancing and holistic health. She found her life’s purpose in helping people become happier and healthier through her own healing journey. Steph assists her students in knowing the joy and wonderment of integrating the mind and body through accessible yoga. She encourages an authentic and life-nurturing practice, one that brings greater consciousness to each moment and every movement of the body with a heavy emphasis on breath.
With a masters degree in counseling, Steph brings awareness, acceptance and a down to earth approach to her classes. She studied with Maty Ezraty and later completed her second 200-hour training with Nancy Candea at Yoga Impact in New Jersey and her 300-hour training with Chris Loebsack at Boundless Yoga Studio in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The perpetual student, Steph has studied with Leslie Howard, Travis Eliot, Bryan Kest, Donna Farhi and countless others. She has extensive training in pelvic floor yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, power yoga and accessible yoga. Most recently, Steph was certified as a Grand Master of Meditation through Swami Vidyanand.
Steph founded Yoga and Ayurveda Center with her husband. She later launched Online Yoga School to support her local trainings and has recently launched a virtual yoga studio to accommodate the international community of trainees.
When she isn’t on her mat, Steph can be found volunteering, enjoying her husband and children, dancing and cooking. She currently enjoys serving on the board of World Yoga Federation and Meditation Alliance International and previously enjoyed serving on the Education Committee of Yoga Alliance and places a strong emphasis on inclusivity in her teacher trainings.
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