Chaturanga Dandasana: Four limb staff pose, a staple in most yoga classes. This is a pose that I see so much misalignment in as an instructor. Chaturanga is a crucial element of practice for anyone who enjoys vinyasa yoga or wants to eventually achieve arm balances and inversions. Misaligned chaturanga can lead to shoulder strain and rotator cuff injuries, as well as neck pain and lower back pain. So it's important to do this asana properly.
Here's a breakdown of chaturanga dandasana for you to use as an alignment and practice check-in.
1. Starting in plank pose, make your body parallel to the mat. The shoulders should be stacked right on top of the wrists. The head is an extension of your long spine.
2. Engage the quadriceps by gluing the thigh muscles to their bones. Keep the rest of the body body actively engaged by pressing the heels back toward an imaginary wall and the chest forward into space in front of you.
3. Push the ground away from you and slightly round the shoulders to turn on the shoulder girdle. The biceps will rotate in toward each other. The eyes of the elbows will face out.
4. Engage the bandhas! Mula bandha: lift your pelvic floor. Imagine there is a shelf between your legs. Lift that shelf toward the belly and the back. Uddiyana bandha: Scoop the belly button in and up in a 'J' motion. Jalandara bandha: keep the back of the neck long. Tuck in the chin slightly. Note: if you're having trouble keeping the hips lifted here and the back is starting to banana place the knees on the ground.
5. On an exhale, bend the elbows. Keep everything engaged and active. The arms should come to a 90-degree angle. Hug the biceps in toward the body. Make sure the shoulder heads NEVER drop below the elbows; this is crucial to ensuring safety and symmetry in the shoulder joint.
See if you can hold this pose for one breath, three breaths, five breaths ... Keeping the bandhas working and the shoulders moving away from the ears and down the back. Once you can hold this asana for a few breaths comfortably, see if you can push back up to plank.
Can you do Chaturanga pushups?
Happy shoulders and happy practice, yogis!
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