Chaturanga is one of the primary moves we learn from day one in yoga. It’s like our basic corner stone, but we often need assistance truly getting this asana (pose) correct. I went to an awesome arm balance and inversions workshop presented this past weekend by the amazing Jennifer Martin. I don’t know if she has any bones in her body, because she’s ridiculously flexible, but her strength is beyond inspirational as well.
The east coast as a whole as obviously displeased the weather gods. We’re being constantly brutalized by a barrage of ice storms and snow, and while I love a good over sized sweater as much as any other #basicbitch, there’s only so many layers a girl can wear before looking like that waddling kiddo from The Christmas Story. I personally wear about twenty thousand layers when it’s cold outside, because my Texas blood cannot handle the cold. Creatures who dress cute when it’s negative degrees outside are some kind of ice demon and are not to be trusted. Seriously. They aren’t normal. Despite the freeeeezing temps, I left the comfort of my loft in DC and braved my way to Arlington to learn from Jennifer Martic, a true vinyassa yoga master.
One of the key points that Jennifer expressed throughout the class is how essential chaturanga arms are for many key yoga poses. Believe it or not, chatarunga arms are essential to nailing inversions like tripod headstands and forearm balances; they’re also key for so many arm balances, because they create the shelf which we balance our bodies. She also drilled into us how to correctly do chaturanga so we could practice appropriate form. Interestingly enough, until we put a spotlight on that basic pose, the majority of the class actually didn’t use correct form, or often sloppy form (ahem, *raises hand* Guilty! Oops!). Take away: foundation asanas are called foundation for a reason. Get them right or learn everything the hard way.
Chaturanga is actually an incredibly challenging pose. Coordination of many muscles is actually essential for correctly executing the pose. Common problems include shoulder blades lifting up and “winging.” The head of the shoulder rounds forward, reaching towards the floor, which places tremendous stress on the shoulder joints and can cause injuries. The butt often lifts up into the air to compensate for the action. People often dip way too low, which puts strain on the body as well.
Perhaps the biggest error people make when performing a chaturanga is that they do not keep their arms at a 90 degree angle and the elbows flare out away from the body. At all times with poses that require “chaturanga arms,” elbows should be drawn in towards the core.
- Remember, arms will form a 90-degree angle to the floor as you lower down from plank position. To achieve this, shift your body forward while in plank before you even lower. Broaden across your collarbones instead of hunching your shoulder. Fire up your upper back muscles to pin your shoulder blades onto you back.
- Bend your elbows and pull them in towards your ribs as you lower down towards the ground. Keep hands should be by your lower ribs. Lengthen your tailbone and reach your heels towards the back of the room as you keep your neck long.
- Activate your abs and engage your core throughout the asana.
- Practice with a strap looped around your arms. It forces you to keep perfect 90 degree arms and you won’t be able to dip too low.
- Be purposeful about keeping your arms pinned against your body. This inward tucking towards your core is actually an essential move for future arm balances and inversions.
- Some yogis are mirror dependent, and others avoid looking in a mirror at all costs. Many yoga studios won’t have a mirror, because it can be incredibly distracting. However, when practicing this asana, you definitely want to find a mirror or a yoga partner to help you evaluate your pose.
- Just do it. Practice 5x at 3 different times throughout the day. It doesn’t take long, and you’ll build strength up quickly.
- Any extra tips or thoughts about chaturanga? Feel free to share! Much love and namaste!