Chaturanga Yoga Pose Alignment and Anatomy

The Mystery FINALLY Revealed and Clarified

CHATURANGA

WHAT IS CHATURANGA AND WHY IS IT SO CONFUSING?

What is the best alignment for the yoga pose: Chaturanga? Well first let’s start with what Chaturanga is. Chaturanga is both a yoga pose and a transition otherwise known as a movement – a posture implies no movement, while a transition implies the movement between two static postures. Because Chaturanga is used as both a static posture and a transition, it is hard to have a universal conversation about it. We have to first agree on what it is in order to analyze “it”. Globally there is a discussion of “chaturanga” and yet everyone has a different idea of what it is in their mind, and thus there exists much controversy around what is the correct alignment of chaturanga.

How could there be a correct pose when the posture is usually taught as a movement from one posture to another? In modern vinyasa this pose is used to go from plank to upward dog, and in order for movement to occur it is a law that join alignment has to change, for if our joints do not change than no movement can occur. SO, while there are many reasons to practice chaturanga as an isolated pose, that is not how most people are practicing it these days, so it would be more useful to discuss how to move our bones and what muscles we can engage if we want a smooth flowing posture that minimizes risk of our joints.

CONFUSED BY GRAVITY

The movement is confusing mostly because of our relationship to gravity. When looking at the movement, it is actually not all that complex, there are only 3 major joints that change: the elbows go from straight to bend, the arm bone goes from being in front to by our side (flexion to neutral) and the shoulder blades go from apart to together (more or less) which is called protraction to retraction – explained in the video below. If you stand up and do the same actions with your arms while having your hands out in front, there is nothing mysterious or complex about the actions, but when you put the weight of your body plus gravity upon you then it gets interesting.

While the joints actions are simple in the movement from plank down toward the ground, the muscle engagements that slow the body down in this transition are actually the OPPOSITE of the joints. . For example the elbow is bending when moving from plank downward to chaturanga, BUT the muscles that need to engage in order to slow down the movement are actually your triceps. The Triceps are the muslces that straighten the elbow, and yet we are wanting the elbow to bend. If we don’t activate our triceps in the transition form plank to chaturanga than we would rapidly fall on the ground. We do this all the time in transitions, we activate the opposing muscles of what is happening anatomically in our joints. We even do it in most static postures – for example, how many poses have you done where you feel your quads burning, and yet your knee is bent? The muscles that straighten the knee are the quads, and yet they are fully engaged in bent kneed postures, so that you don’t completely bend your knee and wind up on the ground.

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CLARITY: WHAT IS THE CORRECT ALIGNMENT OR WAY TO DO CHATURANGA?

In my video below you will hear more about “correct” and “incorrect” and why there really isn’t a way we could define that, but we can talk about efficiency, joint safety, greatest stability, or range of motion etc. The way I suggest to practice chaturanga is as follows .

Allow your joints to:

  1. Elbow: Bend (flexion)
  2. Shoulders: Arm Bones go from flexion (out in front as in plank) to neutral
  3. Shoulder Blades: Protraction to Retraction from plank to chaturanga

What Muscles To Engage and HOW to Engage them

  1. Triceps: Try to straighten your elbow while allowing it to bend. The action of trying to straighten your elbow is an activation of your triceps. You do this by only activating your triceps enough to slow down the bending of the elbow but not enough that you win over the weight of your body and gravity, if you did that then you’d wind up back in plank pose.
  2. Deltoids: Same explanation – the front deltoids are the muscles that would normally bring your arms from neutral to out in front (flexion). Activate these muscles enough that it slows down the decent but does’t stop it.
  3. Serratus Anterior: The muscle that moves your shoulder blades a part – this is very active when we do plank (hopefully), and it should remain active while lowering, it is what slows the movement of the scapula from protraction to retraction. Note this is not the same as punching your shoulder blade forward into what is called upward tilt which I go over thoroughly in the blogs below.
  4. CHATURANA ALGINMENT: 3 KEY ACTIONS
  5. CHATURANGA ALIGNMENT PT 2: INTEGRATE THE ACTIONS

The February 2020 Immersion titled “The Dance” is a unique immersion in that it is focused entirely on transitions from one posture to another, learning the bio-mechanics and anatomy of what is happening in our body. If you are wanting to re-pattern the way you move on your mat, learn what muscles to engage for efficiency and controlled actions, this is the livestream immersion for you! See All Livestream Immersions

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