When I started practicing yoga, I was recovering from shoulder surgeries on both sides, and the teachers whose classes I went to put Vasisthasana into just about every class. Talk about jumping into the fire!
I had to build strength and stability fast. Fortunately, this pose, which requires so much strength and stability in your core, also helps build that strength and stability. It is great at targeting your shoulders and building strength all around the shoulder joint, as well as in your biceps and triceps, your core, legs, and so much more.
Vasisthasana really is a whole-body pose and it’s one I love including variations of in my own practice and in my classes.
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Vasisthasana Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Vasisthasana / Vashisthasana / Parsva Phalakasana|
|English||The Sage Vasistha’s Pose / Side Plank|
|Pronunciation||vah-she-STAH-suh-nuh / par-jva pah-lah-KAHS-uh-nuh|
|Meaning||Vasistha is a Sage. His name has also come to mean excellent or the best.|
Asana means pose, seat or posture.
Parsva means side.
Phalaka is a plank or board.
Vasisthasana means the Sage Vasistha’s Pose. You could also argue that it means The Best Pose.
Parsva Phalakasana means Side Plank Pose.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Vasisthasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Side Plank include:
- Strengthens and tones your arms and shoulders.
- Tests — and therefore builds — your balance, which helps improve focus and concentration.
- Strengthens your back muscles, especially your lower back and your deep spinal stabilizing muscle, the quadratus lumborum.
- Improves your core strength.
- Stretches and strengthens your wrists.
- Stretches hamstrings and adductors when top leg is extended up.
- Builds strength in your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
- Helps you build endurance and focus for more challenging poses.
- One of the best ways to target and strengthen your obliques.
- Reduces your risk of a back injury by strengthening your core. A 2016 study found that poor core endurance was linked to increased injury risk.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people! If you require extra support in this sequence, see the Modifications section below.
- If you have high blood pressure, make sure to keep your head above your heart.
- If you have wrist, elbow and shoulder issues, you may want to avoid this pose. For wrist issues, using a yoga wedge or practicing the pose with your forearm on the ground may help. See Modifications section below.
- If you have a back or leg injury, you may want to avoid this pose.
- If you have health issues related to your chest or ribs, you may wish to avoid this pose until fully recovered.
- Students with a herniated disc or with rheumatoid arthritis may wish to avoid this pose.
- If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis or bursitis, it is likely best to avoid Side Plank.
- If you are pregnant, please practice Vasisthasana carefully. It is recommended to use a block under your hand to give better support and balance. Or you can come down to your forearm for more support. See Modifications below.
- If you are extra flexible in your elbows, practice keeping your bottom arm very slightly (almost invisibly) bent to help prevent hyperextension, and to also build strength in your arm.
- As always, do what feels good, and don’t do what doesn’t. Listen to your body and please discuss any concerns you have with your health care professional.
Misconceptions & Myths About Vasisthasana
Side Plank’s Origin Story
While the idea of yoga as dedication to a path has existed in India for hundreds of year, most yoga poses are relatively modern. Vasisthasana is one of these modern poses. It first appeared as part of the Third Series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice, created by K. Pattabhi Jois in the second-half of the 20th century.
Vasisthasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Side Plank / Vasisthasana
- Start in Phalakasana (Plank Pose).
- Turn on your right foot so that your heel turns out to the right and the outer edge of your foot comes down to your mat.
- Place your left leg on top of your right leg and squeeze your feet and legs together. See Modifications below for suggestions on how you can modify if you have trouble balancing here.
- Push down through your right hand and foot, and engage the right side of your waist, lifting your hips a little. Bring your left hand onto your hip.
- Stretch your left arm straight up so that it is stacked over your right arm.
- Flare your toes on both feet to help activate your ankles and your adductors.
- Squeeze your inner thighs together and tighten your glutes (butt) to open your hips.
- Lift your chin out of your chest and lengthen through your whole torso.
- Look up at your left hand.
- You can stay here or take the pose further. If staying here, come back to Phalakasana when ready, and practice the other side.
- OR bend your left leg and bring your left knee in towards your chest.
- Hold your left big toe with your first two fingers and thumb of your left hand.
- Push your foot into your hand, and pull with your hand. Straighten your left leg up towards the ceiling.
- This is Vasisthasana. Stay here for a few breaths.
- Come back to Plank Pose, take a few breaths, and then go to the second side.
- Balasana (Child’s Pose) makes a good resting pose after practice Side Plank. I recommend bringing your arms back by your sides so that your shoulders get a chance to rest.
Modifications & Variations
If you find it hard to balance in Vasisthasana
Do not stack your legs. Instead, do the “kickstand” variation. Step your top foot forward and place it in front of your hips, far enough away from your body so that your shin is roughly straight up and down. Turn your foot so it is parallel to the short edge of your mat (the same as your other foot).
If it is still hard to balance
Set up in Plank next to a wall and come into Side Plank so that your back leans against the wall. This will support you and help you find the form of the pose.
If you have wrist pain in the pose
Check your alignment first. Your wrist crease, or the bones of your wrist, must be parallel to the top of your mat (or even slightly – very slightly! – turned out). If you still get wrist pain, place a yoga wedge under your hand, with the thick edge closest to your wrist.
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist pain
You can practice Side Plank on your forearm, with your forearm parallel to the short edge of your mat. If you would prefer to keep bottom arm straight, you can make a fist and press your fist into the ground.
If you are pregnant
It is recommended to use a block under your hand to give better support and balance. Another option would be to come down onto your forearm for more support.
If you can’t hold your foot AND straighten your leg
Grab a yoga strap and flip it around your foot. Hold the strap in your top hand and push your foot into the strap while you pull on the strap with your hand.
Use a chair (and two mats, and a block)
Check out this fantastic modification for Vasisthasana! I love all the different ways props can be used to help. Here, you set up the chair on your mat, place a folded up mat on the chair for comfort and stickiness, and then place a thin block on the chair seat (this is to support your side/under arm area).
Kneel on your mat next to the chair. Tuck your head, right shoulder and right arm through the back of the chair. Lean your right hip on the chair seat and reach your right arm down so you can hold the bottom leg. Straighten your legs out to the side. If you want to find the full expression of the pose bend your top leg, grab your big toe and go further. See photo below for more detail.
Vasisthasana with Vrkasana
Want more options? You can always change it up and do Vrkasana (Tree Pose) with your top leg if you want. Bring the foot of your top leg onto the inner thigh of your bottom leg. Keep lifting your hips and push down through your bottom foot.
With props, your options are endless
There really is no end to the possibilities of modifying or adapting Vasisthasana when you have access to rope walls, chairs, straps, blocks, blankets, bolsters, and more. I recommend experimenting with props and spending time with teachers who use props in their classes to help you expand your practice of this pose.
Yoga Poses Related to Side Plank
- Phalakasana / Plank Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
- Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana / Extended Hand to Foot Pose
- Kapinjalasana / Chataka Bird Pose
- Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon Pose
- Parighasana / Gate Keeper’s Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Vishvamitrasana / Vishvamitra’s Pose
- Camatkarasana / Wild Thing Pose
- Urdhva Dhanurasana / Upward Bow or Full Wheel Pose
Related Posts & Videos
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
- Foam Yoga Wedge
- Folding Yoga Chair
Save 10% on cork yoga gear
- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
- Use our code AYO10 for 10% off all Corq yoga mats.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Vasisthasana
This is a pose that continues to work for you, long after you have figured out the basic form. It will continue to help you build strength and stability in your body and mind as long as you practice it.
Plus, like all good yoga poses, Vasisthasana just keeps unfolding into more and more options and possibilities. Like yoga, the possibilities of Vasisthasana are endless. Have fun playing!
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Vasisthasana. It’s my goal to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply while enabling you to cultivate the strength and clarity needed to live your life adventure to the fullest!