Phalakasana - TINT Yoga

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Phalakasana High Plank

    Quick Facts

  • Sanskrit (Original): Phalakāsana
  • Etymology: Plank, board (phalaka); pose (āsana)
  • Fun Fact about the pose: Usually, the breath is held when transitioning into this pose, hence its alternative name Khumbakasana (khumbaka meaning breath retention).
  • Asana Type: Arm Balance
  • Main length muscle groups: ["back leg","arm"]
  • Main strength muscle groups: Spinal extensors and flexors; serratus anterior, rotator cuff, deltoid, biceps brachii, pronator quadratus, pronator teres; muscles of the wrists and hands; abdominal muscles; hamstrings, adductor magnus, quadriceps, gluteus maximus; muscles of the feet
  • Vinyasa Breath: Inhale and exhale possible

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How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step

  • 1 For High Plank or Phalakasana, start kneeling on your mat. Place your hands shoulder-width apart with the index fingers facing the front. Your arms should be vertical.
  • 2 Straighten your legs. When your legs and your torso create one line, you have found the right distance between hands and feet.
  • 3 Lift the inner thighs up (not the buttocks!).
  • 4 Close your ribcage and push the ground away with your hands.
  • 5 Lift the chin slightly so that the neck is long and neutral.
  • 6 You can also transition into, and out of, Phalakasana from Adho Mukha Svanasana as you maintain the exact same distance between hands and feet in both poses.

Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose

Learn about common mistakes and teaching perspectives of the pose in our Asana Tutorials.

  • Lift the heels up: In traditional yoga teachings, a common cue is to push the heels back and the crown of the head forward. However, pushing the heels back will not really help you to engage your thighs and your core. Instead, lift the heels up and engage the thighs.
  • Push the mat away: A common observation is that the shoulders collapse in Plank Pose. This puts a lot of strain on the entire neck-and-shoulder area. Instead, push the mat away. This will cause the upper back to round slightly rather than the shoulder blades collapsing in.
  • Push the inner thighs up: Many practitioners just hang around in Phalakasana without engaging the buttocks and the core. This puts a lot of strain on the lumbar spine. The remedy is quite simple (if, however, not necessarily easy): Focus on pushing the inner thighs up. The rest of the body will follow along. Note that this cue may result in practitioners lifting the buttocks up. Proactively draw your attention to the thighs rather than the buttocks.
  • Curl the pubic bone in: Another action that helps to avoid sinking into the pose is focusing on the pelvis and the pubic bone. Imagine you curl your pubic bone in, i.e. bringing it closer towards your sternum. This way, you can’t curve the spine but will create more space in the lumbar spine instead.

Adapting The Pose Through Modifications

Simplify

  • Practitioners suffering from wrist pain (despite activating their hands by creating Hasta Bandha) may find relief by practicing Phalakasana on their fists. Alternatively, place a rolled-up towel underneath your wrist bone or roll up the yoga mat.
  • If High Plank is not accessible due to injury in the hands, arms, or shoulders, you can place your knees on the floor. This will take away a significant amount of weight from your upper body. Note, however, that this option will not help you to build strength for this pose. This is because you need to learn how to engage the thighs, which is only possible when the knees are lifted.

Level Up

  • The most obvious challenge is to hold High Plank for several breaths. This gives you the opportunity to really focus on the engagement of the different body parts: the lifting of the thighs, the straight line throughout your back and the slight rounding in the upper back. If you’re fortunate, your yoga mat has an interesting pattern to look at so that you are distracted from the strain.
  • Make Phalakasana an even more challenging pose by lifting one foot off the ground. Make sure you alternate between both feet and try to hold it for a few breaths. If that’s still not challenging enough, lift the opposite arm as well. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  • Another way to play around in Phalakasana is to draw one knee in toward the chest or the elbow or even up to the triceps. Alternate between pulling the knee towards the elbow of the same side and then diagonally to the opposite elbow.
  • Practice Forearm Plank as a variation or even create a little drill transitioning between Forearm Plank and High Plank.
  • Flip your feet so that the tops of the feet are on the mat. This is a great way to build strength in the ankles and prepare the body for Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.

Benefits of Phalakasana

  • When you look at all the muscles that are engaged in High Plank, it’s easy to see what a great strength builder this pose is. It activates muscles in all areas of the body, making it a perfect full-body exercise.
  • The pose mainly strengthens the shoulders, the core and the thighs.
  • It also helps you to build stamina and challenge your willpower.
  • Since you really have to focus on the correct position of your legs, hips, spine, and shoulders, this asana trains your body awareness and body intelligence.
  • It also helps you to focus and calm your mind – I mean: How can you think of anything when you have to hold your body in Plank Pose?

TAKE YOUR YOGA CLASS PREPARATION TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

High Plank probably is my favorite pose to take time for worldly explanations in a yoga class, especially when I have students coming to class with the prejudice that yoga is oh-so boring. Joking aside: It’s a great pose to bring students out of their busy minds into the present moment.

Doreen

Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher

FAQ: Common questions about this pose

High Plank is in itself not a very complex or complicated pose. This does not mean it’s easy. It still requires stability and good awareness of the position of your body. But as variations of this pose are also practiced in other bodyweight exercises, many students will already be familiar with this pose even if they practice yoga for the first time. However, you may also find experienced yogis who do not have enough strength to keep the body stable. So the answer is as easy as always: It depends.

If your aim is to perform the full pose eventually, I’d not recommend practicing Phalakasana with bent knees. The thing is that the activation of your thighs, i.e. pushing them up, is a very important factor for your stability in this pose. If you place the knees on the ground, you defraud yourself of the chance to practice this activation of the thighs. However, you suffer from a shoulder injury, for example, placing the knees on the ground can help you to keep up with the class and transition down onto the ground without putting a lot of strain on your shoulder.

There are many different variations of Plank Pose: You can do a High Plank (which is the traditional Phalakasana), Forearm Plank with the forearm parallel or the hands clasped, Chaturanga Dandasana, Side Plank or even place the knees down. So which of these options is the best? The answer depends, of course, on your goal: While High Plank is especially effective for your shoulders and the upper body in general, Forearm Plank effectively challenges the transversus abdominis, which is the deepest abdominal muscle responsible for a nice and strong waistline. Side Plank (Vasisthasana) specifically targets the obliques. Chaturanga Dandasana, works the triceps a lot more and is a great preparation for arm balances. Plank pose with the knees on the ground is a great alternative for those who suffer from injury in the shoulders, arms, or wrists and are, thus, not able to perform one of the other pose variations.

What if...

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 yoga classes fast and easy? 

Our brand new

Yoga Sequence Builder

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