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Summer of Core Day 25: Plank Till You Drop

The other day in class, I said “Ok, this plank is until failure.” I got some chuckles and groans, and later, reflecting on my language I realized that “failure” is not something we say in yoga class very often.

But it’s worth exploring a little bit. The “until failure” directive I must have picked up from my CrossFit friends talking about their WODs (Workout of the Day). And what it means is until you can’t do any more, that you are so tired, your muscles so fatigued, that another rep, another pushup, another pull up, or whatever the exercise, is not an option. That is totally CrossFit culture. Not so much in yoga.

In yoga we say, “listen to your body,” and “come to your edge.” That edge is when your body tells you that you are working to your limit but not going beyond it in a way that will cause your body harm. You are pushing yourself, but not falling over the cliff, so to speak. This is a way of taking care of yourself, feeling good about where you are, building body awareness and trying to avoid injury. These are all good things, and as someone who is as capable as the next person to practice negative self talk, being kind to myself and allowing myself to back off when I need to is empowering.

That said, planking “until failure” is another way of building empowerment. Testing how long you can hold your body in this challenging position while maintaining good form, strong breath and a keen awareness of the moment.

We’ve been going on this Summer of Core journey now for almost an entire month. If you’re practicing regularly, you should be feeling quite strong. The weekly plank test is one way to gauge your increased strength.

So today, we will plank until we drop, until our form falls apart and we need to rest. Maybe you’ll feel your shoulders sag, or your belly sink toward the ground. Maybe your arms will begin to tremble, or your breathing will become too labored to go on. Or maybe you’ll lose the engagement in your lower abs. Pay attention to all of this, and when it’s time to come out, come out and be proud of yourself for your hard work and dedication.

Now, go do your plank with a time, and let me know how it goes!

Happy planking!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 22: Forearm Plank Burn

Don’t be scared by the title. Today’s move is strenuous, BUT we have been going for 22 days! We should be getting very strong.

So…staying with forearm plank, today we’re adding in some leg moves to make hanging out in plank a little more dynamic. We’ll work a little into our obliques as well.

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in your strong, straight forearm plank.
  • Inhale, lift your right leg.
  • Exhale, pull your right knee to the outside of your right arm.
  • Inhale, stretch your right leg back out.
  • Exhale, lower it to the ground.
  • Switch sides.
  • Repeat as many rounds as you can handle, trying to keep a strong, straight plank throughout.
  • Rest in child’s pose.

A Word on Shoulders

Our shoulders are made up of lots of muscles and ligaments and a ball and socket joint, which can be very unstable. Think about shoulder dislocations, or rotator-cuff tears—not uncommon!

There are a lot of ways to strain or injure your shoulders. I still suffer from an old high school volleyball injury to my right shoulder, which gets irritated when I don’t keep my shoulder strong or in good alignment.

Forearm plank is a really great way to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders. But if you start to feel like your form is falling apart, like you’re sagging, and the integrity of your alignment begins to falter, come out of the pose and rest. There’s no reason to push beyond your limits.

Always listen to your body!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 19: Forearm Plank

Well, here we are at Week 3. Incredible, right?

Normally, I’d say let’s continue on with adding five seconds on to your plank, which you can, but I am structuring this week around forearm plank, so if you’re comfortable doing your plank on your forearms, do it and add five seconds to last week’s plank time.

Alignment Points to ConsiderForearmPlank

  • Stack your elbows under your shoulders. A good way to figure this out is to set your elbows on the ground and wrap your hands around the outsides of your elbows. This enables you to use the length of your forearm as a measure to line up your elbows under your shoulders.
  • Start on your knees. Just like in straight-arm plank, understanding the engagement in your lower abdominals, turning them on, so to speak, is the main point of control here. Lower your hips enough so you have good core engagement, your abs are working and your back is flat.
  • When your kneeling plank is solid, lift your knees. Stay in a flat line, like a board, shoulders, hips, heels making a straight, diagonal line.
  • Keep your shoulder strong. If you feel your chest sagging or your shoulders slipping up toward your ears, press down through your forearms to get those shoulders flat and your chest broad. You’ll be working your shoulders a lot in this variation, so drop to your knees if your form starts to disintegrate.

Building strength

This week you should be holding your plank at least 10 seconds longer than you did the first day. That’s a great improvement. Keep it going. Make sure to record your time so you have it for next week!

Let’s Practice Together

Join me Tuesday in class at 9 a.m. for vinyasa flow and at 4:30 for Active Recovery at Soul, where we’ll go through some of last week’s and this week’s moves together.

By the way, Active Recovery is a great class for anyone who is a little tighter than the average yogi. I structure the class to get the body very warm so we can move into deep stretches and restorative poses with more ease. I love teaching this class, and if you haven’t tried it yet join us at 4:30 on Tuesday!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 16: Side Plank T-Flows

I made this one up. Well, I’m sure I picked some of it up somewhere. But I certainly made up the name. It’s not so much side plank as it is a chance to utilize your obliques in a new way.

Here’s Katy for a second day in a row demonstrating the move.

Thanks again Katy for being a wonderful model and dedicated student!

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in kneeling side plank with your right knee down and left arm to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift from your left arm so your right arm lifts off the ground and both arms form a “T”, palms facing down, arms out to the sides, torso stacked over hips.
  • Exhale, float your left hand to your left thigh. Reach your right arm straight up.
  • Inhale, extend toward the sky, stretching from your right knee through the whole right side of your body up to your finger tips.
  • Exhale, float your right arm back to the ground with control, left arm to the sky, returning to side plank.
  • Repeat this flow five to ten times. Switch sides.

Alignment Tune-Up

  • In kneeling side plank, make sure your bottom arm is stacked beneath your shoulders, so there’s a long, straight line running from your bottom hand through your chest and shoulders and up your lifted arm.
  • Bring your bottom knee directly under your bottom hip for optimal stability.
  • Extend your top leg straight out so the foot is in line with your bottom knee. You should feel like your body is in one singular plane.
  • Engage your extended thigh and keep your top hip lifted, core engaged.

Why Flow?

We primarily practice vinyasa yoga, meaning yoga that flows with the breath. It becomes a moving meditation, which can be very effective in clearing the mind and reducing stress from our hectic, daily lives.

“The Western world has become a seated society, which is why vinyasa yoga is so important: its orientation is breath and movement, and research shows that increased movement in a seated society is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.” ~ Eddie Modestini, renowned yoga instructor and student of BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I hope that this flow and yesterday’s flow will get you moving today and you’ll find some joy and freedom in the practice.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 13: Plank

Welcome to Week 3!

We’re going to do some fun flows this week. I’m looking forward to showing them to you.

But for now, it’s time to up that Plank time! Hopefully you recorded your time from last Monday. Today you will add 5 seconds to that time.

how-to-do-plank-pose-yoga

Remember to stay tight through your core, especially in your lower abs, pulling them up and in. If you are on your knees, make sure you feel like you’re working and you have a nice, flat back and a diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.

Those of you I saw this week in class, we worked a lot on fine tuning plank alignment and working to really feel engagement in the core to stay strong and stable. Keep up the good work!

Remember Your Options

You can always be in kneeling plank. In fact, it’s a good place to start. If you’re feeling really strong, lift your knees into full plank. When and if you start to feel your form disintegrate, come back to your knees.

You can also be on your forearms. If your wrists get fatigued or painful with the weight of the body in straight-arm plank, drop onto your forearms, but keep your strong, straight alignment in the rest of your body.

Happy First Week of School!

For those of you in the classroom as teachers or with kids heading off to school this week, I hope the transition goes smoothly. I know my boys (identical twins) are looking forward to starting 5th grade today. They finally got excited about it Sunday evening, and they have decided they will not dress the same to be kind to their new teacher and not confuse her so much on the first day. One will wear their Steph Curry jersey on Monday, the other will wear it on Tuesday. Problem solved. They’re getting so sophisticated!

Questions? Comments?

Please, please let me know if you have any questions about alignment or how something should feel or look as we go through this month together. Obviously the easiest way for me to show you proper technique and form is in person, so come to class! But if that’s not possible, send me a quick email or comment on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 10: Side Plank Hip Dips

Hello and welcome to the 10th day of Summer of Core! Can you believe it?

Today we will build a little bit more on side plank by incorporating hip dips. Like the Hip Dips on straight plank we did on Day 2, this move isolates and works the obliques a little more and the exterior hip muscles.

Let’s Do It

  • Start in your version of side plank (on the knee, staggered/scissored feet, stacked feet).
  • Bring your top hand to your top hip to help you feel where that hip is going.
  • Inhale, lift the side of your top hip toward the sky.
  • Exhale, drop the side of your lower hip toward the ground.
  • Inhale to lift.
  • Repeat three full rounds to start. You can add reps if you need to.
  • Switch sides.

Points on Alignment

  • Bottom hand should be under your lower shoulder, your arm strong, hugging muscle to bone.
  • Keep your back flat, as if up against a wall.
  • Your top shoulder may want to dip toward the ground, try to keep it pulled back, isolating movement in your hips.
  • Kneeling side plank might feel a little awkward for this move. If you prefer that position, try to move slowly with full awareness on your hip alignment. You might also consider extending the bottom leg into a staggered stance for more optimum alignment.

Here’s a video demonstrating the dips with all modifications.

Thanks for staying with this! Let me know how it’s going or if you have any questions.

I’m teaching tomorrow morning and Saturday morning at Soul, and we will practice this week’s moves in class. Check my Schedule for class times.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 8: Side Plank

This week, we are taking a deep look at side plank, vasisthasana in Sanskrit.

This is a powerhouse move, as it not only strengthens the abs, especially the obliques and the serratus anterior, but works the shoulders and legs as well. It’s a full-body strength move with lots of variations, which we’ll get to over the next few days.

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in plank. Take your weight to the left side, rolling onto your left arm and coming onto the edge your left foot.
  • Stack your right foot on top of your left.
  • Extend your right arm to the sky, lifting from your right ribs through your fingertips.
  • Lift your hips, as if a string is pulling your right hip to the sky.
  • Strengthen your quads and your feet.
  • Push into the ground with your left arm, driving the floor away, hugging muscle to bone.
  • Reach your shoulders away from each other.
  • Gaze can be upwards if it feels OK on your neck. Otherwise adjust your gaze so as to not strain your neck.
  • Hold your side plank for five full breaths.
  • Switch sides.

Options

Kneeling side plank

KneelingSidePlank

This is a great place to start, especially if you feel wobbly. You can get great extension without having to worry about balance. You can work on lifting your hip, engaging your core and expanding in your chest and shoulders. Don’t forget to keep your extended leg engaged and the sole of the foot on the floor.

Scissored feet

Scissored Side Plank

Another great option to make this pose feel more accessible. Scissoring the feet provides more stability, but you can still get into a full leg extension.

Forearm Side Plank

Forearm Side Plank

If for any reason, a straight-arm version of side plank is not comfortable, come onto your forearm. Have your elbow stacked under your shoulder, and work to push away from the ground so you don’t collapse into your shoulder. Always extend upwards.

Extended leg

Extended Side Plank

To increase the challenge, lift your top leg. Keep your thighs strong and your hips lifted.

Get Stronger!

Use the next few days to challenge your ability. You may want to start in a kneeling side plank and work up from there. You might experiment with peaking at extended side plank for a breath or two.

Please let me know if you have any questions. And come practice with me today! 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at Soul Yoga.

~ Shoshana