Preventing Injury in Chaturanga Dandasana

December 17, 2019

Chaturanga dandasana (also known as four legged staff pose, low plank, or a yoga pushup) is one of the most challenging poses you may encounter in your practice. It’s also a pose that’s used frequently, especially in vinyasa classes, so here are some tips on mastering chaturanga without putting excess strain on the shoulders and elbows.

Build upper body strength. If you find it difficult to lower yourself slowly from a high plank to the floor, spend time creating the upper body strength you need for chaturanga before working it into your flow. Planks, pushups, and handstands are good for this. Some instructors offer a chin-chest-and-knees-to-the-floor option; however, this modification has come under recent criticism for being harder on the lower back, shoulders, and neck than a properly executed chaturanga.

Take your time. Breathe deeply and envision your nicely aligned low plank before moving into it, and don’t rush through this portion of your vinyasa. It’s ok to pause in chaturanga before flowing through upward facing dog and then downward dog.

Engage the right muscles. Roll the shoulders back and down, and press your fingertips into your mat, gripping it to activate the hands and lower arms. Tighten your core and glutes, and press the balls of your feet into the mat. Activating the lower body helps take weight off the upper limbs and joints.

Keep your elbows close to the body. As you lower into this pose, your elbows should bend backwards toward your hips and not go out to the sides as they do in a traditional pushup. It’s not necessary to “pin” the elbows to the rib cage (which might make you move the elbows out in order to lower the torso in between the arms), but position them just enough away from the body to allow you to come down easily.

Make sure shoulders and elbows are lined up. Dropping the torso below the shoulders puts a lot of extra stress on the rotator cuffs, elbows, and wrists, so make sure you maintain a nice, straight line from the head to the heels.

Embrace chaturanga as part of your journey whether it comes easily or takes time to master, and consult your instructor with any questions or concerns.

Heidi Drake l Mukha YogaBy Heidi Drake; All Rights Reserved @2019

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