Or, more simply, how to do chaturanga without damaging your rotator cuff (shoulder joint).
Hunching the shoulders up to the ears, collapsing the belly, letting the elbows drift away from the ribs, scrunching the shoulder blades together. All signs that your chaturanga isn’t healthy. However, we all start somewhere and without some precise and careful instruction – which is then translated and carried out correctly by your body a number of times – it’s very easy to fall into such habits.
I’ve got a method for you you below, but if you’re still in the deeply dazed and confused stage with chaturanga – and indeed downward facing dog – and fancy practising some great exercises to help the muscles around the shoulder and chest prepare for these poses, have a read of the below article from Yoga International. It’s a little wordy, so maybe cruise through first checking out the pictures to get a mental image of what’s involved, and then go back and read more carefully, incorporating a little practice. Invest now, avoid pain and suffering later :)
Yoga International article: How to Avoid Shoulder Injuries in Chaturanga and Plank
And now for my cues, to help you make that transition between plank, chaturanga and updog….
(Inhale) Plank >> (Exhale) Chaturanga >> (Inhale) Updog
- Adopt plank pose, arms straight with wrists below shoulders, fingers generously spaced, drawing energy up through the palms. Engage the lower abdominals and the quadriceps, finding length throughout the spine.
- Inhale and lift the gaze forward without overly stretching the front of the neck. Notice the effect that has on the chest (it should lift a little). Counter any tendency of the lower back to sink, by engaging the lower abdominals and curling the tailbone in and maintaining a sense of lift in the lower back.
- Exhale, lever the chest forward and pressing into the fingers as you bend the elbows, drawing the sides of the torso down to meet the upper arms. Engage the quadriceps! Keep looking ahead. Press the toes down and heels back. Counter any tendency in the shoulderblades to hunch by squeezing the upper arms into the torso and lengthening the upper spine.
- Inhale, time to lift to upward facing dog :) Lead the movement by lifting the head, neck and upper chest first, pressing through the top of the palms to lengthen the arms. Poker straight arms could easily lead to shoulder-shrug effect, which will not bring spaciousness or ease into the pose. Counter the potential for that by keeping a baby bend in the elbows, and retain that sense of a grip or hug, between the upper arms and sides of the torso. Keep elevating the spine and widening the chest. Tops of toes are flat on the back of the mat, knees lifted.
From updog you’ll typically transition into downward facing dog on an exhale. But that my friends, will be saved for a later post… over and out!