“. . . according to the Yoga Sutra (3.1), the term [Bandha] refers to the ‘binding’ of consciousness to a particular object or locus (desha), which is the very essence of concentration.”
Georg Feuerstein

Connect Your Feet to Your Shoulders in Side Forearm Plank Pose

We recently covered the some key poses to strengthen your core, along with biomechanical cues to refine your work in Forearm Plank pose and Bird Dog pose. Side Forearm Plank is another awesome pose to strengthen your core while protecting your wrists. You do this one by placing your forearm on the mat and attempting to drag it towards your feet, while engaging the core muscles on your sides to stabilize the lumbar pelvic complex. Keep your supporting arm (the humerus bone) straight up and down (at a right angle to the floor). This way the passive strength of the bone aids to support your body weight. Click here for more on this concept in Vasisthasana.

Figure 1: Side Forearm Plank Preparatory Pose

Begin by stabilizing the shoulders. Do this by attempting to externally rotate your forearm on the mat. At the same time, attempt to internally rotate your forearm on the mat as well. It’s a bit like a windshield wiper that’s fixed in place. This cue “co-activates” the infraspinatus and teres minor (external rotation) and the subscapularis (internal rotation) muscles of your rotator cuff. Feel how this stabilizes your shoulder. Folks that are new to this pose can use the preparatory version to work with this cue. Figure 1 shows the prep pose and Figure 2 illustrates the action of the forearms.

Figure 2: This illustrates the cue for co-activating the external and internal shoulder rotators (the infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis of the rotator cuff).

Next, press the edge of your lower side foot into the mat and gently draw it upwards toward the shin to “evert” your foot. These cues activate a series of muscles—including the “lateral subsystem”--to connect your shoulders and legs to your core. Figure 3 shows the cue for attempting to drag the forearm and the feet towards each other (while engaging the side abs).

Now let’s check out the myofascial connections in side forearm plank. When you press the side of your foot into the mat, you activate the peroneus muscles as well as the abductor muscles up at your hip (the TFL and gluteus medius). These muscles have a fascial connection to your abs, specifically the external oblique (which attaches to the rim of the pelvis). The external oblique connects to your shoulders via the serratus anterior muscle. The serratus anterior is a scapular stabilizer that works in concert with the rotator cuff. So the whole operation helps to integrate your feet, legs, pelvis and lumbar--all the way up to the shoulders.

Figure 3: This illustrates the cue of everting the lower foot and dragging the elbow towards it. It also shows the deep longitudinal subsystem.

So let’s talk about the deep longitudinal subsystem…

Your deep longitudinal subsystem is made up of the peroneus longus muscle (on the outside of your lower leg), the biceps femoris of your hamstrings and your sacrotuberous ligament (up in the pelvis), the thoracolumbar fascia and the erector spinae muscles (in your back). The biceps femoris creates a link between the lower extremities and the trunk via the sacrotuberous ligament. This ligament helps to transmit force across your sacrum, and, via the thoracolumbar fascia on up the trunk to your deep back muscles. Check Figure 3 for a color coded illustration of this connection. Click here to see this connection in the lower legs in Reverse Pigeon Pose.

This subsystem is part of the global movement system and is thought to be important in force transmission between your trunk and the ground—as in walking. We’ll have more posts on the other subsystems and how to work with them in yoga soon. Click here to see how the abductor muscles of the hip work in your poses. Click here to learn more about the thoracolumbar fascia and its importance in yoga.

Figure 4 shows the myofascial connection between the external oblique muscle (of the abs) and the serratus anterior of the shoulder girdle.

Figure 4: This illustrates the myofascial connection between the external oblique muscle of the abdomen and the serratus anterior of the shoulder girdle.

An excerpt from "Yoga Mat Companion 4 - Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions".

An excerpt from "Yoga Mat Companion 4 - Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions".

Thanks for checking in! Click here to browse through our books. Or by clicking the links on the right. These books have lots of practical cues with key info on anatomic sequencing to integrate into your practice!


Ray Long, MD


  1. thank you for posting this - it's fascinating! I've been doing yoga 2 or 3 times a week for a year and this makes me want to go deeper into my practice.

  2. Excellent. i can teach this to persons who are obese and weak..

  3. Thank you, it's informative

  4. Do I literally externally and internally rotate my forearm while in the side plank preparatory pose?

    1. Hi Anon,

      I recommend attempting to simultaneously internally and externally rotate the shoulder by fixing the forearms on the mat and doing the maneuver I describe in the figure above. Thus, the forearm is used to co-contract the rotator muscles of the shoulder. The forearms themselves do not rotate in this cue. The shoulder also does not actually rotate, because the rotational forces are balanced by co-contraction of the opposing muscles, which are an antagonist/synergist combination--antagonists for rotation, synergists for stabilizing the gleno-humeral joint (shoulder). The effect is to stabilize the shoulder. Best~Ray

  5. Core strength is important in yoga practice to be able to do yoga poses in a fluid manner. Thanks for discussing some important points for your readers. Seeing the anatomical framework makes me understand this exercise better.

  6. Your graphic representation of the muscles and bones responsible for the side forearm plank is so detailed, it gives me a better idea on which muscles I should be concentrating on for a better, deeper pose. Thanks for sharing this educational blog. I hope to see more of this in the future!

  7. I enjoy learning stretches for the longitudinal subsystem. I have a slightly crooked back and love to look at different stretches and yoga poses to naturally relax it. I would like to learn more about alignment poses. chronic pain

  8. I love your informative post!
    I am a mother of 4, my oldest is 12. I have never worked out. My core is extremely weak, along with the rest of my body- causing back, and hip pain. What do you suggest to start?

  9. This is great! Look forward to reading more of your posts.

  10. I love your books i have them all on my kindle> and the info on this helps me in my life time study and practice of yoga, Thanks for sharing and caring.

  11. This is great! Would you consider doing an article comparing low planks (side and regular) to the high plank versions of the same pose? Thanks for making this information available.

  12. Thanks so much for this reminder and co-activation cues. My pitchers love this!

  13. Thank you for your post. I recently had a type A fall off a ladder and greatly injure her wrist (among other things) She is feeling a little subpar dropping into forearm planks. I am excited to share this article with her. Namaste!

  14. This is AMAZING. Thank you so much for continuing to do this! It's so helpful as a yoga teacher to learn more about anatomy and cues to get our students (and ourselves) deeper into their practice. Thank you!