How to Save Your Shoulders in Chatturanga Dandasana
How many times do you do Chatturanga Dandasana, Four Limbed Staff Pose or Low Plank, when you practice yoga? In Ashtanga’s primary series alone, it’s close to 50! Practice a couple of times a week (or more, ’cause your a warrior!) and the load on your shoulders adds up. What’s “downstream,” your wrists and elbows will be strained if your shoulders are in poor alignment, too. Let’s make a quick breakdown to keep your shoulders, wrists and elbows healthy, happy and pain-free for many more years of practice.
Begin in Plank
Before you even lower towards the ground, align your shoulders. From the top of your push up position, draw your shoulder blades onto your back so that your arm bones plug back and into the sockets. When you do this, your chest descends down towards the floor and forward through the window of your arms. Just make sure your hips and belly don’t sag.
Lowering Down: Elbows In-Line With Shoulders
When you lower, lead with your chest and keep your collar bones broad. Move your weight a little forward as you descend; you’ll move on a diagonal rather than dropping in a perpendicular line to the floor. Doing it this way puts your elbows at a right angle and your hands closer to your ribs than your chest. It also exponentially decreases the strain on your wrists and shoulders. Stop your descent so that your shoulders are never below your elbows. If you don’t, the head of your humerus (shoulder bone) has popped forward and you are at risk for injury.
Work Your Hands
Always keep the inner edges of your hands down, so that your palms are flat. Press your fingertips into the ground enough that you feel your hands and wrists tone. If you allow them to lift both in Chatturanga, Dog Pose and the transitions between, it dumps weight back into your wrists. Over time, your shoulders will compensate for this weakness and will be out of alignment to do so.
PS: If you get your protractor out, my shoulders are actually a little lower than my elbows, even though my arm bones are back, oops! It’s good to see yourself, so try doing this in front of a mirror or have a friend take a picture…
Awesome shot, yoga people constantly amaze us with their locations (and poses)!