Strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and stretch your hamstrings with this popular balancing pose
Balance on the Bright Side
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Side plank may sound like no big thing, but balancing on one hand and foot while extending your other leg takes a whole lot of balance, strength, and flexibility. That said, there are a few steps you can take to make side plank with big toe hold a bit more accessible. As with everything in yoga, take each step one breath at a time and only do what feels good to you at any given moment. When your body is ready to move deeper into the pose, it will. Remember to have fun with the process!
Prep: Standing Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener
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Stand and clasp hands behind back. Take a big inhale to open chest and on exhale, soften knees and fold forward, letting head fall toward the ground and gently releasing neck. If you feel comfortable, bend one knee and then the other, getting more into your shoulders. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Prep: Seated Forward Fold
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Sit with legs extended together in front of you and lean forward as much as little as feels good on your legs and lower back. (If your hamstrings are tight, soften your knees. The goal not to touch your toes, but to find length and extension in your spine and open your legs.) Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Prep: Wide-Legged SeatedForward Fold
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Staying seated, move legs wide apart from each other. Take a big inhale to lengthen through spine and on exhale, start to crawl hands forward, keeping a long spine. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Prep: Tree Pose
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Slowly come up to stand. Balance weight in right foot and place left foot on inside of thigh or shin (not the knee). Take hands together at center of chest and breathe here for 5 deep breaths. Repeat standing on left leg.
Prep: Standing Big Toe Hold
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Stand and hug right knee into chest, taking hold of big toe with first and second fingers and thumb of right hand. Stay here for 3 long deep breaths. Gently extend right leg forward, leading with heel. (If right leg doesn’t straighten all the way, don’t force it.) Keep shoulders down and relaxed and stay steady with breath. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Prep: Big Toe Hold with Side Variation
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From front extension with the big toe hold, open leg out to right side. Stay here for 5 deep breaths, then bring leg back to forward position. Repeat closed- and open-hip toe holds on the other side.
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Now that you're warmed up, come into plank. Transfer weight onto right hand and outer edge of right foot, reaching left arm toward the ceiling for side plank. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.
Side Plank with Tree Variation
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If side plank feels good, reach right big toe to the ground, bend left knee, and place left foot on inside of left thigh. Take hold of left big toe with two first fingers and breathe here for 3 deep breaths. (Feel free to come out of the pose and rest in child’s pose at anytime; remember to listen to your body!)
Side Plank with Big Toe Hold
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Gently reach heel toward the ceiling, lengthening leg as much as it feels comfortable. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then release gently back into plank. You did it! Now try it on the other side.