Balancing Yoga Poses

Side Plank Pose

A powerful arm and wrist strengthener, Side Plank takes its two-armed sibling to the next level, as an arm balance.

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Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose) is a powerful arm and wrist strengthener that is as joyful as it is beautiful. In the full expression of the pose, your bottom leg grounds into the floor, your top leg is raised until it is perpendicular to the floor, and your upper body extends and lifts into an offering of the heart.

Vasisthasana is named after Vasistha, one of the oldest Vedic sages who is said to have helped King Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu, gain clarity through his clouded vision.

To get into Side Plank, you need to create heat in your upper back, fire up your core, and make space in your hamstrings and hips. If you’re shaking, it means you’re doing it right: Those quakes are an opportunity to learn to embrace the discomfort and focus on holding the challenging pose.

Side Plank basics

Sanskrit: Vasisthasana (vah-sish-TAHS-anna)

Pose type: Arm balance

Targets: Upper body

Why we love it:  “As someone who is not a fan of most arm balances in my practice (which are very few to begin with), I actually enjoy Side Plank,” says Yoga Journal staff writer Ellen O’Brien. “Rather than focusing on the concentration of weight on one arm, I tend to think more about lifting up and engaging with my abdominal muscles. By focusing on lifting toward the sky—and turning my gaze up, I tend not to focus as much on the difficulty of the pose.”

Join Outside+ today to get access to exclusive pose information, including our complete guide to Side Plank, featuring video instruction, anatomy know-how, and additional pose variations. 

Pose benefits

A challenging arm balance, this pose strengthens the wrists, arms, belly, and legs. It also stretches the backs of the legs and improves your sense of balance.

Side Plank Pose: Step-by-step instructions

Woman demonstrates Side Plank
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
  1. Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), then shift forward into Plank Pose.
  2. Roll onto the outside edge of your right foot, and stack your left foot on top of your right.
  3. Swing your left hand onto your left hip, turning your torso to the left as you do. Support the weight of your body on the outer right foot and right hand.
  4. Align your body into one long diagonal line from your heels to the crown of your head.
  5. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, so it is in line with your shoulders. Keep your head neutral, or gaze up at the left hand.
  6. Stay in the position for several breaths, then return to Plank and repeat on the other side.

Beginner’s tip

Make sure that your supporting hand is not directly under its shoulder; instead, position it slightly in front of your shoulder.

Teaching Vasisthasana

These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • If balance is hard to maintain, bring your top foot down as a “kickstand” in front of or behind your bottom leg.
  • If you want to build even more core strength, lie on your side and lift up onto your left forearm, instead of balancing on your extended arm. Then lift your hips.

Variation: Side Plank with knee down

Woman demonstrates a variation of Side Plank
(Photo: Eleanor Williamson)

If balance is hard to maintain, let your bottom leg act as a kickstand: Set yourself up as if you are going to go into Side Plank, propped up on your side. Bend your top knee and step that foot in front of your body. Lift your hips up. You can take the option to lift your top arm and look up. Stay for several deep breaths, then slowly lower down. Repeat on the other side.

Preparatory poses

Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Plank Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Parsvokanasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose)

Counter poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Sphinx Pose

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