Phalakasana or Kumbhakasana – Plank Pose

The plank pose is an essential tool for any yoga lover or gym-goer. It’s a very polarizing pose for many; you either love it, or you hate it! 

However, there’s no denying the benefits the pose can give to your strength.

The plank pose is known in Sanskrit as Phalakasana or Kumbhakasana. It’s an important yoga position to know as a transitional pose. However, you can still use it on its own as well!

This article will discuss:

  • The origins of the plank pose and its names
  • How to plank pose
  • The benefits of plank pose
  • Some common mistakes of the plank pose
  • Variations you can try.

Let’s get into it!

What are the Origins of the Sanskrit Plank?

You may be wondering if Phalakasana or Kumbhakasana is the correct Sanskrit name. The answer is that it’s complicated!

Both words have origins and meanings. “Phala” means to bear fruit or ripen. The idea is the plank pose is a transformational pose; you are using it to become stronger.

In terms of the name Kumbhakasana, “Kumbhak” relates to breath retention. The second half, “asana”, relates to posture. We can think of this word as relating to the pose itself.

Many people often cite Joseph Pilates, the inventor of Pilates, as the creator of the plank pose. However, its history has been contested. 

How to Plank Pose

Begin in a push-up position

Start on your hands and knees. You can either do this on the floor, or a yoga mat.

Align wrists under shoulders

Ensure your wrists align with your shoulders. Keep your fingers spread apart, pressing into the ground and engaging your forearms. 

Extend legs straight back

Next, slowly lift your body off the ground by tucking your toes and taking a few steps back.

 

Engage core muscles

Now, engage your core muscles to support the weight of your pelvis.

Keep your body in a straight line

Make sure your arms are close to your body, and keep your legs straight as you can. You’ll want to almost be pressing your body into the floor.

Maintain a neutral spine

Lower your gaze to the floor to lengthen the back of your neck.

Gaze slightly ahead

Now, look up a little to extend your spine.

Hold for the desired duration

Congratulations: You’ve achieved the plank pose! You can either hold this position for a few breaths or for as long as you’d like. A good beginner tip is to hold for five breaths or a minute. 

Breathe

While holding the pose, make sure to breathe smoothly. 

Lower knees to modify

If you’re struggling on your toes, try lowering your knees to alleviate the position. This is called the half-plank pose.

Release by lowering down

Once you’re ready to stop, lower your body back to the ground.

Benefits of Plank Pose

You’re strengthening your core

The plank pose engages with your core muscles. This means you’ll become more toned and stronger. Hello, six-pack!

Posture improvement

Another benefit of the plank pose is better posture. By engaging the muscles in your shoulders, thighs, and back, you’re reducing the stress on your spine. This means over time, you’ll find yourself less forced into a hunched position. 

Increased upper body strength

By engaging your arms, wrists, and shoulders, you’re building strength in your upper body. 

By holding the pose for increasingly longer periods, you’ll also improve your strength and stability.

Better balance and endurance

Did you know your core keeps you balanced on one leg? By strengthening your core, you’re adding endurance to your muscles.

Improved mental health

That’s right – planks can also be beneficial for your mental health! 

Exercise is generally seen as a mental health booster, and the plank is good for keeping you focused on your breathing.

Better flexibility

Plank pose helps you build strength in your hips and thighs. This gives you more flexibility to aid with other poses, like handstands or headstands!

Overall body engagement

Planks require a full-body level of engagement. They activate a lot of muscles such as your arms, legs, and abs.

Supports spine health

We’ve already talked about how planks can improve your posture, but they can also be good for your back!

Common Mistakes of Plank Pose

Sagging hips

A common mistake of plank pose is allowing your hips to sag towards the ground. Make sure you keep your body in a straight line throughout the pose.

Lifting hips or butt too high

You can also have your hips too high! Ensure your hips are low to the ground so your body forms a straight line. Ask a friend to check your form if you’re struggling.

Rounding shoulders

Make sure to align your wrists and shoulders throughout the pose.

Locking elbows

Keep your elbows soft! Locking your elbows can lead to injury, so ensure you’re engaging with your biceps and triceps to prevent this.

Holding breath

Breathing is just as important as having good form. Being able to control your breathing helps keep you grounded in your pose.

Allowing the head to drop

Keep your neck neutral or straight, with your gaze softly ahead. Letting your head drop will disrupt the straight line you’ve created in your spine.

Improper hand placement

Keep those fingers spread apart! A common technique in yoga is using all four corners of your hands as grounding points. Make sure you press down into the ground with your palms to help your pose.

Variations of Plank Pose

Forearm plank

A slightly more difficult version of the plank, this version helps take the pressure off your wrists. Instead of going hands down, rest your forearms on the ground and engage in the same pose.

Side plank

This is another common variation of the plank. You can achieve this by lying on one side and propping yourself up with your forearms. Keep your body straight like a normal plank!

One-leg plank

You can also modify the plank by lifting one leg off the ground and holding the position.

Plank with knee taps

Tap your knees to the ground to give your hamstrings and quads an extra workout!

Plank with leg lifts

Similar to the one-leg plank, this position makes you raise one leg at a time off the ground.

Plank with shoulder taps

This can help boost your balance. Simply take one hand off the ground at a time and tap on your shoulder.

Plank with arm reaches

Another way you can test your balance is by lifting your arms off the ground one at a time.

Plank with hip dips

Make sure you’re on your elbows for this one. This pose requires you to twist your hips from side to side.

Plank with leg crossovers

Another way you can add to your plank exercise is by reaching your legs across the front of your body. 

Why Should I Try Plank Pose?

If you want to strengthen your core

Planking can help you build strength and endurance, especially in your core! This means you’ll be able to build more strength for other exercises as well.

If you want to improve your posture

Do you always find yourself hunched over your computer? Planking a few times a week has the benefit of improving your posture!

If you want full-body engagement

Sometimes, it can be hard to find exercises that work all of your body. Luckily, plank pose is one of those few exercises that’s both simple and works out lots of muscles.

If you want to enhance upper body strength

Planking is an upper-body workout at its finest.

If you want to target abdominal muscles

Looking to get abs? The plank pose targets your abdominal muscles, meaning you’re more likely to get that sculpted chest you’re after!

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is the Sanskrit name for the forearm plank?

The Sanskrit name for the forearm variation of the plank is ‘Phalakasana II.’ 

What is plank called in Sanskrit? 

In Sanskrit, the plank pose is known as ‘Phalakasana.’

What is another name for a plank?

Another name for the plank is Kumbhakasana.

 

Laura Simmons
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