Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’Self: Cleaning Up Chaturanga Dandasana

I had a dream –nay, nightmare– a few nights ago that…GASP… my chaturangas were misaligned.

The horror.

No but seriously, improper alignment (i.e. injury-inducing alignment) can lead to pretty nasty situations in your shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and lower back so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re keeping yourself safe and super happy in your yoga practice.  Right after my dream I randomly came across this article from Yoga TuneUp addressing chaturanga safety (<—-LOL, YOGA), and it’s been on my mind lately after a dicey spell in the springtime where I was thisclose to seriously hurting myself if I didn’t clean up my act.

With that being said, remember that alignment can be super liberating in yoga practice.  When you set your joints and muscles up in a way that is supportive, you can explore depth and strength that you couldn’t before because there were blockages of tension in energy in your body.

So let’s chat anatomy, shall we:

Shoulders, Elbows, Hips

  • In chaturanga dandasana all three should be in one straight line.  Generally this means that a 90-degree angle at your elbows is the name of the game. When a yoga teacher cues “chaturanga arms” in arm balances, this is what he or she is getting at: the perfect shelf with which you can do all the crazy upside down shit your little heart desires.
  • The trick, though, comes in doing so without piking up the butt or flattening out the back.  The natural curve of the spine = a good thing.  Tweaking your lower back and putting pressure on the front part of your shoulder joint = a not good thing.
  • Another thing to keep in mind: no chicken wings. Elbows are pulling in toward one another with the joint tracking forward so they don’t splay out and injure the connective tissue around the it.
Lowering from Plank to Chaturanga
  • When you lower from plank to chaturanga, stop when your elbows are parallel to your shoulders and hips. Don’t lower further than this point and then shimmy your way back to a straight line between your shoulders, elbows, and hips. Dipping lower to the floor will only be injury-provoking and actually make the pose harder for you to hold.
  • If you start from a strong plank, chaturanga will be simply a matter of bending your elbows.  That’s all folks…and shifting your weight forward a bit, of course.  Get solid in chaturanga by keeping your tailbone tucked toward your heels and your belly button pulled back toward the spine as you lower down. This way you don’t strain the lower back and you can find that 90-degree sweet spot with buoyancy and lightness.
Highly Advisable Tips
  • Check yourself out in the mirror.  I didn’t realize how f-d up my chaturanga was until I started taking note of my alignment in a mirror at home.
  • Find and feel your rhomboid and serratus muscles. These are the two main players in sliding your shoulder blades down your back to keep the chest open.  They help support the shoulder joint as you lower into Chaturanga, but also help you stay stable in plank.  If you’re dipping too far down in plank, allowing your front ribs to droop toward the floor, you’re stressing out the rhomboids.  If your puffing up through your upper back between your shoulder blades, then you’re tweaking your serratus.
  1. How to Find Them: Stick your arms out in front of you, or in table top and plug your shoulders in an out of the socket.
  2. What To Do With This Information:  When you’re in chaturanga, check out to see where you’re putting muscle tension, where you’re dipping to far forward or down, or where your putting the majority of your body weight.  Use this “plugging in” exercise to isolate and correct the alignment and the feel the difference.  
  • Lastly, and most advisably: talk to a yoga teacher after class and ask them to look over your chaturangas and jump-backs.  They can assess the situation in two seconds and your shoulders will be most grateful.

And be sure to share your own #chaturangasafety tips for all the Lovely Healthy readers on the interwebs. 

{ sat nam + namaste }

xo

G

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