Can plank pose really be the answer to your prayers?
Paula Radcliff says it’s the key to safe fitness, Miranda Kerr and Gisele hold it for up to 10 minutes, it rescued my body after pregnancy and the ancient yogis teach us it can create internal confidence and focus - so is plank really worth the pain? Seems so.
I loose count of how many times we do plankasana in a yoga class, with all it’s arm trembling variations: side plank (vasisthasana), forearm plank, chaturanga dandasana, reverse plank (purvottanasana), they are all as equally challenging yet pleasantly surmountable and highly beneficial, from helping to prevent injuries in runners, restrengthening broken postnatal bodies to combating all types of unwanted body fat while increasing internal confidence and willpower.
Accordingly to Paula Radcliff, current women’s marathon world recorder holder “It’s so important to have a strong core. The stronger the core, the more likely you are to hold your form and less likely to get injured.” When you run, though your legs may be doing the lion’s share of the work, your upper body is constantly rotating. Your abdominals and obliques should be activated, providing balance and support. And of course your intercostal muscles are working away as you breathe more and more heavily, so these muscles need to be strong. If they aren’t, you are more likely to overcompensate elsewhere and perhaps cause an injury or pain. When I read this quote I had a bit of a ‘ah ha’ moment, I can clearly remember before yoga arrived, I would run long distances which would be followed by periods of acute pains in my hips, lower back and knees. Not having made the connection, after pregnancy I made the silly mistake of trying to run before restrengthening my pelvic floor muscles and abdomen, my body soon let me now that this was a big no-no with the unwelcome arrival of deep shooting pains that would literally stop me in my tracks. I soon got back to the yoga mat and made lifelong friends with plank, as if overnight all pain disappeared and has never returned. I do of course have an overwhelming faith in the power of yoga, so maybe it’s the placebo effect, but regardless - my hips are happy.
Supermodels Miranda Kerr & Gisele Bündchen have openly spoken about the benefits of planking, Miranda says she holds it for up to ten minutes at a time (don’t try that at home, I did and collapsed after 40 seconds), while Gisele, who posed nude after the birth of her two children for Vogue Brasil famously taught Jimmy Fallon how to Plank on The Tonight Show.
On a personal note, alongside the need to reclaim my pre-pregnancy strength, my motivation for gritting my teeth and bearing it is inspired by the yogic traditions. We are taught that if we enliven the chakra located just above the navel, the Manipura Chakra we ignite the fire within 'agni’. This fire purifies the past and energises progress towards mental awareness and spiritual development, boosting self esteem, confidence and internal joy. This chakra is where we get our “gut instincts” that signal us what to do when we need guidance. Something worth considering when you feel the burn, right?
And if you don’t buy into all this hippy business then how about just remember nothing boosts self-esteem like seeing the results of your hard work and perseverance pay off in a tangible way. After a few yoga classes whether you’re there for the soul searching or six-pack, the power of plank will remove back fat, bingo wings, muffin tops and you’ll be walking taller and looking leaner too.
Join us in Greece this summer for a week of yoga planking, spiritual development and joy…