Perfecting Chaturanga Dandasana
Today’s practice was probably the longest I’ve ever done, 2 hours and 10 minutes including 10 minutes Savasana. Surprisingly, I felt great and energetic after the practice rather than fatigued.
In average, I do 50 Vinyasas in my practice, which equals to 50 Chaturangas. That’s a lot!!! Poor alignment in this pose can cause sever injury, especially for the wrist, shoulder and low back. I was fighting with left shoulder injury for 6 months two years ago. It was not fun at all. After practicing yoga for 7 years, I still feel I know nothing about the “CORRECT” alignment in Chaturanga. I hear different cues from different teachers. But, who is right and who is wrong? In my opinion, whatever works for my body without causing injury is the “RIGHT" Chaturanga.
With that said, Chaturanga Dandasana was my focus this morning. It’s been almost a year since I recovered from the shoulder injury. I had made some “corrections” in the pose to avoid straining muscles, tendon and ligaments.
First was Shoulders – keeping shoulders down and away from ears.
I used to hunch shoulders forward in Chaturanga, which put tremendous strain and tension at the fronts of my shoulders. Also, the pectoral muscles were doing almost all the work resulting in tightness. In fact, my physical therapist was working on my pectoral muscles for a while to address my shoulder injury.
Second was Elbows – avoid overly squeezing the elbows in toward the rib cage.
When I kept elbows really close by the ribcage, the shoulders would round forward again. Instead of squeezing elbows in, I hugged my hands in toward each other. This was the advice given by my teacher. Although I wasn’t squeezing elbows in, they were still relatively close to the rib cage.
Next was Wrists – allowing the angle of wrists over 90 degree.
I was taught in the past to keep elbows and wrists bent 90 degree while elbows stacked over wrists. There was nothing wrong about it, but I preferred what my teacher told me, not to bend the wrist passed 90 degree angle. In this case, I was able release some tension and weight from my wrists.
Last but not least was Legs – firing up the legs.
This was my main focus today. I tended to forget using my legs in the pose. To keep the legs engaged, I had to actively pressing heels back. Oftentimes, I shifted the weight forward when lowering down to Chaturanga from Plank, then heels would come forward as well (in front of toes). When that happened, shoulders were taking all the weight from my body. By pushing heels back, it helped to distribute the weight across the body and take some pressure away from shoulders. Yes, I was back to the leg work I have been focusing on again.
Besides the work in Chaturanga Dandasana, I spent about 20 minutes on backbends, including Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Kapotasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana. I got to say I LOVE BACKBENDS. All the leg work I’ve been doing was very beneficial to backbends, especially the drop back. I was able to do the drop back without prop for the second time today. My legs are getting stronger!!!
P.S. There is a great article from Yoga International on "How to Avoid Shoulrder Injuries in Chaturanga and Plank" is worth reading.
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