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How to Build Mind-Body Strength and Flexibility with Yoga's Plank Pose

Try Plank during the warm-up or posture-pacing sections of your mind-body workouts. The plank posture looks exactly as it sounds: You’re straight as a board in a push-up position. Sounds easy? Wait ’til you hang out there a few minutes and then try to push back up or out. You strengthen your entire upper body, as well as your toes, feet, and legs, with this yoga posture.

Plank is usually not done in isolation (although no ancient Yoga rule says you can’t!), but is most often done as a part of a flowing vinyasa, such as a Sun Salutation.

The Plank isn’t a warm-up posture you want to jump right into to start a routine, but it works well toward the end of a warm-up or when you find your pace in the middle to help raise your core body temperature to prepare it for deeper stretches.

  1. Start in Mountain Posture, or standing up straight with aligned spine.

  2. Move to Standing Forward Bend, bending your knees so you can put your hands on the ground in front of your feet.

  3. Walk your hands forward, keeping your abdominals tight, until your hands are below your shoulders. Keep your arms straight, fingers pointed straight ahead. Your neck and shoulders need to be relaxed, but still hold them straight out in perfect alignment as if it’s a continuation upward from your spine. You have become a plank!

  4. Hold this posture for a few seconds. (Breathe, please!)

  5. Release by simply lowering your knees to the floor and then your whole body. Or you can (get ready for this) inhale, then on your exhale push your hips back strongly into a Downward Facing Dog position, then return yourself to a Standing Forward Bend.

You find lots of ways to use the Plank posture and lots of ways to get in and out of it, using one leg or two, dropping down, forward, or back up. When you’re in Plank, feel as if you are widening across your upper back. Spread the area between your shoulder blades rather than sink into it. Try to push your heels back and straighten your knees.

A modification, if you are a beginner, is to drop your knees to the floor, still keeping your body straight from knees to head.

What to avoid in this mind-body pose:

  • Dropping your head

  • Bending your knees while in a full Plank

  • Tensing your shoulders

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