Do you Chaturanga or Chatur-WRONG-ga?
If you've ever practiced Vinyāsa yoga, chances are you've done the infamous Chaturanga Dandasana aka yoga push-up. If you're anything like me, you've probably done it wrong or half-assed it. And hey, that's OK! It's only not ok if we continue to do it that way over and over again for weeks, months, or even years. What do I mean "do it wrong?" because hey it's just a push-up with a fancy Sanskrit name, right? Nope! This posture has all the potential to cause you some serious injury! Let me explain, -but, before I go into all that- let's discuss the correct way to do this challenging posture...
Start from plank:
- Hands under elbows
- Weight distributed in the tips of the fingers to keep too much weight in the heel of the hand/wrist
- Elbows under shoulders
- Abdominals and low ribs pulled in; core engaged
- Thighs pushing up
- Heels pushing back
- Hug all your muscles into the midline of the body
- Here's the KEY! Roll WAY forward on your toes (see pic above). Like waaaaay forward. See how I'm at the very tips of my toes? Come forward even more than you think you should so that it feels like your shoulders are coming in front of your wrists. (This ensures you will lower down with your elbows stacked over your wrists rather than allowing them to extend behind your wrists).
- Now begin to lower down until your arms are no lower than a 90° angle and stop just at that point. Or, if this is too challenging, come down only as far as you can support your weight without bringing the shoulders below elbow height and without lifting your hips above elbow height.
Do this while keeping the following in mind:
- Keep your core VERY engaged just as in plank—abdominals and ribs really pulled in
- As you begin to bend you elbows, shift your weight forward, not down (it helps to think about pushing forward on to the tips of your toes, without lifting your hips)
- HUG your elbows into the sides of your body and keep weight in the finger tips
- Keep the tops of your shoulders pulled back away from your ears and pointing straight forward, not drooping down.
- Imagine that you’re trying to make your clavicles broaden.
Why do people do it wrong? Because it’s HARD. And it SUCKS -especially after sweating it out for 75 minutes plus in a hot room! Sometimes towards the end of a hard power Vinyasa class you just can't do one more freakin' pushup and when your teacher says "feel free to flow through a Vinyasa" our ego refuses to take that moment of rest. Some people aren't aware of the proper alignment of this pose and they just have been going through the motions without giving it much thought. And why is this not a good thing? Doing a pose wrong over and over again = potential for repetitive motion injuries, and in this case specifically, rotator cuff injuries. Like the complete opposite of why we do yoga is to get injured!!!
If you are still working on building your strength (or you’re just tired) drop your knees! I promise nobody is looking or frankly even cares!
This is how NOT to do the pose.
This is what you’ll often see in yoga classes, albeit a bit exaggerated here:
1: The Ass Hike: This tends to happen when the core is not engaged enough.
2: The Dumpy Shoulders: This happens because most people are stronger in the front of the shoulders and pectoral muscles and are using these primarily instead of the muscles they should be engaging: the rhomboids and serratus anterior muscles, which hold the shoulder girdle together. In other words, do not let your shoulders drop below elbow height. If you find yourself doing this, place a block in front of your fingertips at it's highest position and practice Chatauranga again without letting your shoulder go below the block. Sometimes it is hard to tell what our shoulders and doing without a physical landmark.
So now that you know how to do it right you have no excuses to hike your bum and dump your weight into the front of your shoulders. So practice this posture the correct way and then drop to your knees when you can't support your weight without dumping into your shoulder girdle because there is no shame in that game!
Namasté, Bendy Babes! -and let me know if you have any questions or comments!