Oh, plank pose: How I love thee.
You think I am being sarcastic here, right? I’m not. And, for better or worse, as a yoga teacher, I get to act on this passion for planks (and bestow as much on my students, hehe) by frequently including the position in my yoga class flow. How, you might wonder, did I get to the point of loving plank?
Simply put: Plank is amazing for you. This posture is much more than a core-strengthening exercise. You’ll also strengthen the back, tone the arms and work the legs. It’s a full body exercise that can ramp up metabolism and fat burn through the heat it creates in the body. By stabilizing the body to stay in alignment, you’ll be working subtle muscles that don’t usually get worked, as well as improving your posture and balance, when performed correctly.
And it’s so much more than a body strengthener. This posture is a frequently visited yoga posture because it really does require mindful and present awareness to stay with it. The real reason (beyond all of these great health benefits) that I love this pose is that I feel how much I am strengthening my mind through this exercise. It’s not just a posture for a strong body. Much like any intense physical challenge (like long distance running, in my own experience) there comes a point where we are ready to quit. Where we think our body is to its limit, and we have to throw in the towel.
The experience of staying with what you’re doing even when it gets tough (just like a challenging yoga class), focusing on the breath, and directing the thoughts to happy places is incredible; it builds a sense of resolve and determination in the mind. It shows us that we are capable of so much more than we know. Generally, the mind quits WAY before the body is ready to.
Want to practice for yourself? Take a look at these handy tips for alignment, and start small. I didn’t get to an eight-minute or ten-minute plank by going straight into it; it took months of practice. Start with one minute, and, from the outset, begin to practice your strength of mind by taking one more breath as soon as you think “I can’t do any more”. Little by little, you will show yourself that you really can. Then work your way up, continuing to give yourself those little challenges of “Just one more breath” in your plank before coming out. After a plank, come into a child’s pose to recover. Slow your breath down, and give yourself some mental love.
Keep it interesting, and make it your own. Time yourself with a motivational song, watch something at the same time, even read! If you opt for the multi-tasking variety of planking, then be sure to continue to remind yourself of alignment and breathing so you don’t fully check out of the pose. Those little distractions are way to pass the time and make you forget about the burn.
Challenging our mind through our physical form creates self-transformation and growth. This is really where the yoga comes off the mat. So next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, facing defeat or doubting yourself, know that you have the strength of mind to do more than you think.
You are strong!
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