In my last post I wrote a lot about shoulder health and promised to get back to poses to help build shoulder strength. I’ve been super busy so it took me a little longer than I anticipated!
One pose that can help to build shoulder, chest and core strength is very common in yoga practice – but also very commonly done wrong! If you do chaturanga incorrectly it can cause repetitive stress injury to the rotator cuff, not something you want to do.
When taking chaturanga you can come straight to the floor if you have the strength in the core to keep your body flat – like a plank (which is how it gets the name low plank). The other option while building strength is to come onto your knees, still keeping that strong core and plank like body, just from the knees to shoulders as opposed to from heels to shoulders.
This too can be very difficult for many people so I’m going to throw in another option. If you bring your knees closer to the chest so your back is still straight but you are bent at the hips you will be able to build up the shoulder strength gradually to allow you to safely get to full chaturanga.
The nitty gritty of this pose
Elbows in chaturanga, or any variation, are tucked closely to your side body. The neck stays in line with the rest of the spine. Shoulders are firmly planted on your back. I talked about this a lot in my previous post. Your wrist creases are parallel to the front edge of your yoga mat and are directly under your elbows when you are low. This isn’t something that’s seen a lot in this pose. While lowering to the floor, you want to come forward onto the tips of the toes – that will align your elbow and wrist properly. We tend to over-flex through the wrists, which can be very hard on them. Speaking of the hands, all fingers are spread wide and all knuckles (including the index finger knuckles) are fully planted to the floor. We tend to roll outward slightly toward the outer part of the wrist which puts a lot of pressure on a little bone called the pisiform, which can’t really take all that weight!
At first it will be enough to just get yourself to the floor in proper alignment, but as you get stronger practice holding yourself off the floor a couple of inches. You can also try taking chaturanga from the floor by laying on the stomach, setting up correctly and then lifting to about 3 inches off the floor – easier said than done! Once you master chaturanga you can really increase the intensity of a class by doing ‘double dips’ where you go from chaturanga to cobra and then back to chaturanga before taking downward facing dog during your sun salutes. Oh the fun you can have with chaturanga haha.
And remember in any yoga pose the advanced version requires that you smile 🙂