4 Plank Mistakes You’re Making—And How To Fix Them

Plank

“When you have the strong foundation of a good plank pose, then everything else you do in a fitness class is going to be more effective—the key is to get it right,” says Bria Tavakoli, a NYC-based yoga teacher and retreat leader.

Planks may be a common move—you’ve probably done them countless times in boot camp classes—but that doesn’t make the pose any less challenging. All sorts of wonky alignments are possible, and a sloppy plank can cause a slew of ailments including wrist, neck, shoulder, and lower-back injuries. The key to avoiding these injuries is moving mindfully—if possible, do plank pose in front of a mirror to see exactly where your body is in space. And be on the lookout for these 4 common plank flubs:

1-Sagging hips

sagging hips

Instead, keep your hips in line with your shoulders, lift your thighs away from the floor, and draw your navel toward your spine. If it is too difficult to keep your hips up in high plank, place your hands on a bench or a wall. Or keep your hands on the floor, but shorten the duration of your hold. If your hips sag in forearm plank, lower your knees to the floor.

2-Wandering arms

wandering arms

Does your plank feel wobbly? Many people set their hands too wide or too far away from their bodies. “This can lead to additional strain in the shoulders, wrists, and neck—especially in a side plank variation,” says Aguiar.

When setting up your side plank, align your shoulder directly over the top of your wrist. Create a “T” shape with your body. Actively press your bottom hand into the floor, and lift your hips toward the sky—this will ensure you are using your arm muscles to support your body and will lessen tension in the shoulders and wrists, says Aguilar.

For the perfect plank position, align your hands directly underneath your shoulders, keeping your hands shoulder-width distance apart. If your shoulders are tight, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, adds Tavakoli.

3-Chicken neck

plank

Is your neck jutting forward? People frequently make this mistake because they’re already in the text-neck posture throughout the day, says Tavakoli. This low plank no-no is detrimental to the cervical spine, since the compromised position of the neck increases tension in the upper spine, back of the throat, and base of the skull. Letting your neck jut forward during planks can also lead to headaches and neck pain, says Aguiar.

To avoid this misalignment, think of your head as an extension of your spine. “Draw the chin slightly back, keep eyes down, and keep the back of the neck long and in line with the rest of the spine,” says Aguiar.

4-Knock-knuckled

Knock Knuckled

Are your hands angled in toward the center of your body in high plank? If so, it can cause your chest to collapse, making it difficult to stabilize your shoulders. It’s also fairly common for your thumbs and index fingers to peel away from the floor—which can cause the wrists to become achy, says Tavakoli.

Instead, place your hands parallel to one another or slightly turn the fingers out. This will help you broaden your collarbones and stabilize your shoulders to prevent injuries, says Tavakoli.

 

10 Yoga Poses For Instant Calm

Blissfully Calming Yoga Poses to Kick Holiday Stress to the Curb

Here are 10 yoga poses for instant calm during the holidays that you can do anywhere, anytime. They can be done as a short sequence or selected one by one, holding for anywhere between 10 breaths and several minutes.

These poses offer much needed moments to breathe and just be, so you can come back to your friends and family with a genuine smile firmly in place.

 

1. Alternate Nostril Breathing

 

Coming to a comfortable seated position, rest left hand on lap. Begin by covering left nostril with middle finger of right hand. Take a slow, deep inhale, then release finger and cover right nostril with right thumb as you exhale through the left. Continue for three to five minutes.


2. Mountain Pose

mountain-pose

Ground down through the four corners of your feet. Grow taller with your breath, as you feel the chest rising and falling with the breath. Keep the palms facing forward to open yourself up to receiving positive energy and calmness.


3. Standing Forward Fold

standing-forward-fold

This is an instantly calming pose known to relieve stress and fatigue while energizing the body as the blood flows to the head. Hold this pose with a gentle bend in the knees and shoulders free of tension.


4. Seated Forward Fold

Seated Forward Bend Yoga Pose

Use cushions to allow you to remain comfortable for several minutes. Relax your muscles, release any stress, resting your head onto the cushions and simply coming to your breath.


5. Warrior II

Warrior I Yoga Pose

Possibly the most empowering, “Be true to yourself” yoga poses ever! Stand tall, stand strong, and settle into your pose. Try closing your eyes. Feel the muscles in the body working to hold you steady as you connect to the absolute power that resides within.


6. Eagle Pose

Eagle Yoga Pose

This is an empowering and energizing pose that works the whole body, sending blood flowing throughout the body, which is great for increasing your libido for sexy times with your partner at the end of a stressful day!


7. Child’s Pose

child-pose

An amazing pose that you can come to at anytime for instant calm! Feel your troubles melt away as you rest your forehead on the mat, cushion, or block and just breathe.


8. Reclined Hero

Reclined-Hero-Pose-Virasana-(Supta Virasana)

A pose to release any stored tension in the hips. Make the pose more restorative and heart-opening by bringing a bolster between your shoulder blades, increasing flexibility in the spine and reducing fatigue and stress—absolute bliss!

Modification: If there is pain in the knees, keep one leg straight and change halfway.


9. Legs-Up-the-Wall

legs up the wall

An all time favorite! You can’t fail but feel lighter after holding this pose for several minutes.


10. Savasana

Savasana

Savasana is THE relaxation pose. It truly encourages the body to come to a still position and just breathe, bringing us naturally to a more peaceful state.


 

 

 

 

Post written by:

Caroline Layzell
ERT 200, 500 RYT currently teaching yoga full-time in Nusa Lembongan, Bali.

Written for: DOYOUYOGA

Yoga is More Than Exercise

Yoga is more than exercise; it is a way of life. A way of being.

Yoga is a spiritual path, not to be confused with religion. Modern yoga has emerged in the west primarily as a physical practice, an exercise.  However, the physical part of yoga is only one branch in Yoga Sutras of Patajanli: The Eight-limbs of Yoga (see illustration below). The Yoga Sutras were compiled prior to 400 CE, so it is an ancient body of work. The branch related to the physical practice is called Asana, later extended to Hatha Yoga. It never ceases to amaze me that the template for living well transcends time. It applies to everybody regardless of the race, religion, century, level of education etc.

Today in the West there are many styles of yoga under the Asana/Hatha umbrella. There is Power Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Slow Flow, Restorative Yoga and Athletic Yoga to mention a few. However, in the yoga lineage (see illustration) Ashtanga, Vinyasas and later in the twentieth century Iyengar, create the foundation from which modern yoga emerged.

As an instructor when I started teaching yoga, I intentionally  focused on the physical practice. I wanted to make yoga accessible to many, who may be turned off by the spiritual sides of yoga. Interestingly, even just practicing the Asanas, opened spiritual doors for many of my students. When we start quieting the mind, concentrating on our physical body and focusing on our breathe, a journey inward occurs. It is only the beginning.

As a teacher, students sense the spiritually in my classes. It is because yoga is a spiritual practice for me. Every day I try to be conscious of my spiritual values. I practice and study  different areas of the eight limbs. They are a great guide for one’s spiritual development. As my work evolves and my studies deepen, I hope to bring more of these teachings to my students.  We can all use positive guides on our journey.

Namaste ~Grace

Be Inspired Fall Retreat Review 2019

It’s hard to plan a retreat, a lot of work goes into it, and there are no guarantees of the outcome. I really wanted our first retreat to be a real retreat. For me, a real retreat includes learning, growth, healing, inspiration and a sense of community. I was pleased that this retreat had everything I had hoped for, and more. I am still on a natural high from the experience. 

I call that being inspired. 

There were people who got to spend time with people they usually see but don’t know, and discovered how wonderful they were. We met new people who were brave enough to join a group they didn’t know and shared their stories with us. Then there were the owners Katie and Declan, who opened their home and made everyone feel welcome. 

The meals were beautifully presented and made with lots of care and love. Beets that were roasted for three hours, carrot-ginger soup and fresh baked apple tart with pumpkin ice cream from the local creamery. There was a vegan banana bread, and curry roasted potatoes, made with spices brought from India. For breakfast there were homemade blueberry scones, veggie omelets and always fresh fruit. The food nurtured our body and soothed our soul.

Our Saturday afternoon trip to West Rattlesnake blew us away. It was an unbelievable fall day-it couldn’t have been any nicer. When we got to the top, we were all speechless. The view of Squam Lake was stunning. We all sat quietly for twenty minutes, in a mindful meditation, just taking it all in. 

The Being True presentation went well. It was a serious topic, however there was a lot of laughter to heal the soul and remind us not to take ourselves so seriously. It was based on my journey, which I have been wanting to share, to help others see life from a different perspective. I was overwhelmed when one of the youngest attendees, a collage student, told me afterwards that it was so inspiring, and she wished a few of her girlfriends had been there to have heard it! It made all the hard work worthwhile.

There were a few bonuses like the fun Conscious Ink tattoos in the journals I gave everyone.  These temporary tattoos with inspirational messages, had everyone talking. The surprise “intention” in our welcome packets was thought provoking, and the beautiful campfire on Saturday night brought closer together.  The owners joined us at the fireside, and we all sat around sharing stories, and listening. Declan said, “ the summers are measured by how many campfires you sit around”. This will be my goal next summer. The night sky had the most stars I have every seen in the dark sky. It was truly magical. 

The silent walk on Sunday morning was spectacular. It seemed like the fog had dropped low, slightly  hovering above the grassy meadows all around us, while the sun shined brightly glistening through the trees. Not a word was spoken, so you could take it all in. It was a “mindful” walk.  

The yoga classes were diverse and beautiful. Katie taught her Ayurveda Dosha Flow class and ended savasna with a beautiful song, that she sang to us, using her harmonium. We experienced a little heaven in this sacred barn studio. We held our Saturday afternoon class outside in front of the barn. It was the perfect day for outdoor yoga and Sunday’s Yoga & Mudras flow, allowing us to bring these ancient hand gestures to our practice with inspirational mantra to deepen our self-awareness and spiritual connection.  

Best of all, were all the hugs I received! Hugs are the best connectors of people. You can feel their energy, their love and their beauty. I simply love hugs more than anything. I received many meaningful hugs that weekend.

Thank you all for your gratitude. All the hard work was worth it!  So much so, that we’re doing it again! If you are interested put it on your calendar.

Our next retreat will be at the same place, Dragonfly Yoga Barn Studio & Retreats, on September 18 to 20, 2020. Full details will be posted in January 2020. Join us! 

My Yoga Journey

Next weekend I will begin the next step in my yoga journey. For several years I have thought about getting my 500-hour teacher training certification. The programs I considered were either too expensive, required lengthy stays or were not well-developed. I had let it go and decided to just take workshops with different instructors that appealed to me. However, my visit to Dragonfly Yoga Barn in NH last May changed that. They were offering a well-developed program, in an intimate setting designed for growing and learning. In addition, the program is created by owner Katie O’ Connell, someone who loves every aspect of her work and lives a yogic lifestyle. I was so inspired, and with the support of my family, I enrolled.
The program is a 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training approved by the National Yoga Alliance. For the next nine month I will be going to NH for a four or three-day weekend which will focus on specific modules, taught by instructors who specialize in those areas. They will also be traveling from far and near to share their knowledge and wisdom. I am beyond excited for this incredible opportunity!
The areas we will be focusing on and studying are Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Yogic Philosophy & Lifestyle, Heart Based Meditation with Paul Dugliss, Thai Massage, and Therapeutic Yoga and Anatomy to name a few.  Naturally, my concern is balancing my currently busy schedule and home life with this new endeavor. Fortunately, my family is supportive, however I’ve had to cut back a few classes from my regular schedule.  It’s for a worthwhile cause.
My passion for yoga is both professional and personal. Personally, yoga has changed my life for the better, therefore it deserves my curiosity and dedication. I have been on a spiritual journey for many years and yoga offers an opportunity to explore its spirituality.  I know this training will move me outside of my comfort zone, and change my inner self in ways I cannot image right now. Professionally my students and private clients will benefit, for they are on this journey with me. I am sure, as I evolve, I will lose students and gain new ones. It is the law of attraction.
I am allowing myself to “trust in the process of life”, and go with the flow. My desire is to learn, practice and grow. Hopefully, to share my wisdom along the way, in order to help others along their journey. I will be blogging and sharing my experience at Dragonfly Barn, so stay tuned in! Namaste <3