If you’re not familiar with Chaturanga, it’s basically holding a push up in its low position. Simple yet very demanding! Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the poses that a Yogi encounters often during practice. It is widely used due to its vulnerability. But many practitioners performing Chaturanga have been doing it wrong for a long time and usually this can only be corrected through years of practice or by a teacher’s guidance. Practicing poses with improper form time and again can cause unimaginable damage to your body, so its important to really focus on correct form.
The socket and the ball of our shoulders are different in nature than those in our hips. Our hip joint is stable while the shoulder joint is not in the same regard. The head of our femur rests squarely in the socket, making it independent from other muscles to keep it intact.
But the case is different for the shoulders. The sockets are composed of ligaments and muscles and only the bottom part where the humerus rests is made of bone, creating shallow attachment to the scapula. To make sure that the ball stays intact to the socket, the ligaments and the muscles surrounding the bone have to put in a collective effort and if it fails to work properly, the ball may be dislocated.
So how do you properly perform Chaturanga Dandasanaa without damaging your shoulders?
In any Yoga posture, proper form is important. And patience plays a vital role in the practice. Here’s a secret to build your way to Chaturanga without sacrificing your shoulders’ happiness:
Stability holds the key. Stabilizing your shoulder can save you from injury while approaching Chaturanga. Pull your shoulders away from your ears. Avoid dropping your shoulders too low. This happens when the pectoral muscle is too strong and is used more than the serratus anterior muscles and rhomboids which support the shoulder girdle. Stay at 90 degrees. Do not lower any further or it will force your shoulders into extension, placing them in bigger risk.
Here are two things that can greatly contribute to your stability. Slowly develop them with patience. Don’t rush. Listen to your body. Be mindful of your movement, breathing and thoughts.
Build strength. Starting your journey with no strength at all shouldn’t discourage you. So a great way to assist your weight is to hug your elbows to the side of your body. Keep them in line with your torso and squeeze them against your sides.
Fully engage your core. If the core isn’t engaged enough, it’ll put a lot of weight and pressure to your shoulders, causing you to develop improper form. Make sure that the ribs and abdominals are pulled in, thighs are pushed up and your heels’ pushed back. Hold all the muscles in your body as one system.
Approaching the posture. Start in a plank position. Wrists, elbows and shoulders are properly aligned vertically. To lift your thighs off the floor, tuck your heels to engage the quads. Suck the belly in as you inhale, engaging your core. Exhale, shift your weight forward, lowering the body, keeping the elbows at 90 degrees, in line with your torso. Inhale to Upward-facing dog to release.
Alternatively, if you can’t hold your full weight on your arms, you can drop to your knees. Follow the same principles. It’ll help lessen the weight your shoulders and arms have to carry while still familiarizing your body with the proper form and developing arm and core strength.
Remember to be patient with the practice and yourself. Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the hardest poses that need time and effort to be fully understood. With regular practice and dedication, it is not impossible.
Trust the journey and have fun discovering yourself!