WRITTEN BY Lynne Ray, PT, PYT, CSCS
PYTA—Professional Yoga Therapy Approach
The Western culture urges us to push harder, move faster and do more. And if we do so, we will be successful. This may be true in life but not without a cost. This mentality can lead us to increased stress, decreased productivity, less adequate sleep, poor dietary habits and eventually leading to undesirable health and possibly full burn-out. The one place that should enable us a break from this harried lifestyle is our yoga mat. However, we continue to see this westernized, over-ambitious, competitive nature on yoga mats around the country. Yoga should be healing not harmful. It should be about increasing self awareness not ego, it should be about intention not speed, it should be about stability over mobility, it should be about breath not breathless, it should be about experiencing something not accomplishing something.
Is your Chaturanga Dandasana healing or harmful?
Chaturanga, the quintessential yoga push-up, is an advanced posture learned over a period of time in yoga practice. However, it is routinely practiced during a fast-paced, hot vinyasa flow where little instruction is offered to a varied population, novice to experienced. If done properly, this whole body pose can be healing. It can build strength, increase energy and stabilization. When not executed properly, Chaturanga can be harmful, producing serious stress on the complex shoulder joint, causing impingement and possibly rotator cuff tears or strains.
Learning to properly perform a Chatauranga
In order to ensure safe yoga push-ups one should be able to adequately perform an arm spiral, a pre-posture for the Chaturanga (video below).
The arm spiral is a foundation for all yoga postures which involve arm movement or placement to ensure healthy shoulders. The face of the elbow should turn towards the ceiling (externally rotated) while the forearm and hand are rotating fully to the mat. The back of the upper arms (triceps) are contracting but not over straightening (hyperextending) the elbow. The spine should be aligned and the shoulders level. The shoulder blades should be drawn towards the spine but depressed away from the ears.
Once this pre-posture is achieved, one can safely progress to a modified Chaturanga yoga push-up (video below).
Beginning from modified high plank with shoulders over elbows over wrists and knees on the mat, exhale and lower down until the elbows are at 90 degree angle. The spine is in proper alignment maintaining all proper curves by powerfully contracting the transverse abdominus (a deep core stabilizer) and using a mula bandha (lifting the pelvic floor muscles). The shoulder blades should remain on the back, close to the spine but not winging off the back. The low back is held in alignment with no sway back (lordosis). The legs are contracting front and back from thigh to foot. There should be a “L” shape at the ankle.
When the modified Chaturanga is mastered one can safely and effectively progress to a full Chaturanga, yoga push-up (video below).
Remember to maintain an arm spiral, as learned above, to protect the complex shoulder joint.
Safe yoga depends on smart yoga. Practicing with proper form and intention is the key to a lifelong journey of healthy yoga.
PYTA — Professional Yoga Therapy Approach is located in Southend in Charlotte, NC and offers a safe, healing platform where students grow physically, socially, energetically, intellectually and spiritually. Our instructors offer therapeutic yoga assessments, individualized plans and guided therapeutic yoga sessions catering to a variety of client needs. Find out more about PYTA and our class offerings at www.pytayoga.com.