In every yoga pose, the whole body should be involved in one way or another. Some parts of the body work providing strength and structure, others make way for movement and motion. Think about all of this involvements as links in a chain. A pose is only as “strong” as the weakest link. In a perfect world, every part of the body would equally contribute, but it often happens that the strong links compensate for the weak ones.
We see this time and time again in our lives and relationships. We as a community are only as strong as the weakest members. We can choose to pick up the slack and help compensate for shortcomings. Or, we can encourage strength where there is weakness. We can help others become stronger.
This week’s PowePose, Vasiṣṭhāsana Variation or Side Plank Variation allows personal examination of this idea. Many yogis can find this posture based on the strength of their upper body or activity of their legs alone. Many times, the weakest link is the torso. Unengaged, the midsection of the body can be supported by the upper and lower body. But, if it’s encouraged to participate the pose really becomes stable and easeful.
This Side Plank Variation where the top leg is grounded is a great check on whether or not the whole body is involved in the pose. The grounding through the top foot is an additional challenge and a bit of an awkward configuration that almost forces the torso to participate. Without the support of the bottom leg, the whole body must be engaged and active if there is any hope to find stillness and peace in the pose.
Option 1: Staggered Feet. From High Plank, shift to one side into Side Plank. The hands and feet should be far enough away that the side body is long. Prevent arching or coiling through the side body. Stagger the feet, or line them up heel to toe as you balance on the arch and blade edges of the feet. Make sure the top foot is staggered behind the bottom. Press down through all four corners of the top foot. You will feel a stretch through the outside of the ankle. Ensure that the bottom shoulder is engaged and the chest is open.
Option 2: Hug Bottom Leg. When you feel stable with staggered feet, hug the bottom knee to the chest. Scissor the legs together and lift through the pelvic floor. Try to maintain stillness and balance as this change occurs. Do not pike the body or hinge at the hips. Prevent the bottom hip from sinking to the earth.
Option 3: Extend With a Strap. Place a strap or binding ring around the bottom foot. Begin to reach the heel away from the body while maintaining a strong side plank shape. Focus on the reaching energy of the leg. The leg does not need to extend completely straight. The hand with the strap can be positioned as if you are holding the big toe or the blade edge of the foot. Play with both variations while being mindful of the shoulder. Keep and energy of leaning back as the hips press forward to keep the body in a long line.
Option 4: Vasiṣṭhāsana Variation. When balance and hamstrings allow take the bottom foot in the hand and extend the leg long. The foot can be held on the blade or arch edge. Play with both variations. Begin by presses the foot away. As the hips and hamstrings allow, pull the foot toward the head for a more challenging configuration.
As you practice this posture, consider where you can help lift up or provide support for the weakest link. Maybe there’s an area where you can be open to receive help or support to make you stronger. As a society we are only as strong as the weakest and we all benefit when a helping hand is offered.
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