Plank Pose is a hard pose to maintain. It works the arms and the muscles of the core, and you may find yourself shaking while in a High Plank Pose. Its Sanskrit name, Kumbhakasana, is interesting because Kumbhaka means to retain (or hold) the breath.
Ideally, you are not holding your breath during this pose, but perhaps you are retaining your position and holding to the posture. Here are three common alignment points that students struggle with, and how to go about fixing them.
1. Belly and Low Back Sag
Try to analyze the reason for your sag — is it that you are not paying attention to engaging these muscles appropriately? Could it be that you had great posture during the first five Sun Salutations but now your muscles are tired? Or, it may be that you do not have the strength, yet, to hold yourself up?
To fix this misalignment, lengthen the tailbone area of the pelvis toward your feet. Lift your abdominal muscles upward toward your low ribs. Lift the thighbones upward.
Another option is to drop your knees to the ground. This allows you to concentrate much more on engaging the muscles of the core to build strength and eventually get to the point where you can practice with legs long and knees up.
2. Hand Placement
Ideally, the wrists should be lining up underneath the shoulders. Additionally, the wrists should be parallel to the top of the mat. Many students angle the hands outwards toward the pinky side of the hand, putting weight on the outer edge of the hand and possibly throwing the other arm joints out of whack in the process.
To fix this misalignment, keep the wrists under shoulders and pay attention to the placement of the hands. Something that yogis do during a High Plank that creates a big difference to the alignment of the wrists, is that they push themselves forward onto their tippy toes. Often, this is done when High Plank is part of a Chaturanga Dandasana.
The slight lean forward onto tippy toes, for most students, will align the shoulders over the wrists.
To fix the wrist angle, consciously place the wrist crease parallel to the top of the mat. Also, work an interior rotation of the hand by pressing into the thumb and index finger side of the hand.
3. Drooping Neck
The neck has muscles that turn it side to side, flex and extend for nodding motions, and muscles that connect to the back and shoulder girdle. That's just a few of the things neck muscles do. Sometimes in Plank Pose, we allow the neck to drop, thereby breaking the line of length of the spine.
To Fix this Misalignment, lift the back of the head upward/backward until the ears are aligned with the shoulders. Also, widen your shoulder blades. The muscles that connect neck to back will be activated in doing so.
Of course, there are many other misalignments that occur during plank pose. I myself, still work on my Plank Pose alignment during every yoga practice. It is a hard pose to maintain, but it is amazing for building strength.
What aspects of plank pose are you working toward improving?