How to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe
What should a good Chaturanga look like?
Are you ready for your next Sun Salutation or transitioning in your sequence via a ‘vinyasa’? Many yoga classes have a lot of these! There’s a lot be said for the rhythm of these parts of yoga and the heat that creates but I have my concerns with the volume of Chaturagas in classes. Lets focus on how to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe.
- many yoga practitioners enjoy Chaturanga, but it’s a complex pose that also requires strength. A lot of the Chaturangas I see are inviting injury. I suspect the increase in yoga shoulder injuries is at least in part due to this.
- Instructors use sun salutations and ‘vinysasas’ frequently – so a yoga practice will have many, many Chaturangas. Too many, to my mind. If I’m in a class like this, I’ll avoid chaturanga after the first few.
- Many classes are quite fast paced – people like to move in their yoga! Yet the most vulnerable time for injury is in transitions. The quick cuing leads to faster Chaturangas making their shoulders more vulnerable.
So what’s the solution? Taking back your own control over your chatuanga!
Most yoga classes don’t spend time teaching form for Chaturanga – so here’s the lowdown
First, lets try to banish our ego – somehow we take any form exercise as competitive when it definitely shouldn’t be in yoga. Part of yoga is listening to our body and understanding it. I’m actually very strong – but there are days I just don’t want to do Chaturanga.
It’s not a personal reflection if you do a variation
or just decided to skip Chaturanga altogether.
Here’s an overview of the main things to bear in mind when doing your Chaturanga. It doesn’t go into details, it’s a highlights of how to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe
Chaturanga requires strength – from most of your body.
You need to be able to lower yourself in a plank position, which requires good core strength. There’s a tendency to what my yoga teacher friend calls ‘sway back’.
It’s not just about your upper body and arm strength
Chaturanga requires complicated movement and alignments
There’s quite a lot of different motion going on during Chaturanga that makes it tricky.
→ The bit that is often overlooked is the ‘hinge forward’.
As you move, your weight moves forward, so your body is not just going down, it’s also moving forward. This protects the shoulders..
→ You also want to have your bum in line with your body.
This will activate your core and reduce the pressure on your shoulders.
→ Don’t let your arms go down more than 90 degrees.
You don’t have to go as far a 90 degrees, but going farther is a stress on your shoulders. This is why Chaturanga is often paired with Upward Facing Dog.
Begin with your bum down and in line with your body, to activate your core.
Slowly come down, keeping your body in line and spine straight, with forward movement. Finish before your arms go past 90 degrees.
Here, superimposed, is the difference between when I start my Chaturanga and where I end it. Note that my heels and head end up father forward!
Why Bother with Chaturanga?
Quite often I don’t! You can stay in your plank and go back to Downward Facing Dog. You can find your way down to the mat to participate in cobra.
There are many options to do instead of Chaturanga – check them out, ask your Instructor!
Get Form – how to do Chaturanga and keep your shoulders safe!
If you do want to have Chaturanga in your practice it’s important to pay attention to your strength and your form so you don’t injure your shoulders. You also might want to go easy on the volume of Chaturangas during your practice!
Taking a Beginner’s Class and asking the Instructor to go over Chaturanga is a great way to develop your Chaturanga.
Want to build up your strength to Chaturanga? Outside of many great poses that build up strength, there are variations you can do when the Instructor says ‘if Chaturanga is in your practice’ – I go over two of them in my free guide.
There’s no reason to have Chaturanga in your practice – and no reason not to. But if you do want it in your practice, it’s worthwhile making sure you’re doing it well so you make yourself vulnerable to injury and are getting maximum benefit.