Deep Dive Into Chaturanga

Deep Dive Into Chaturanga

Shoulder Action Controversy

shoulder stability

DEEP DIVE INTO CHATURANGA

Earlier this week, Matt posted a video on his Instagram page highlighting the shoulder blade movement that takes place in Chaturanga—moving from protraction to retraction. This can be a tricky subject, and it was cause for some discussion in the comments on that video. He goes into more detail here

When we’re taught to do something (such as the execution of a yoga posture) a certain way, it may be difficult to consider an alternative. The Chromatic yoga approach, however, is a nondogmatic one and requires that we create our own understanding through action and being open to new possibilities. There is always room for perspective. Now, Chaturanga can be a challenging posture due to the strength it requires, but in today’s video, we see a breakdown of the steps and gain insight into the anatomy in order to make informed choices in our yoga practice.

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    SEQUENCING FOR THE SHOULDERS

    The intelligent sequencing offered in a Chromatic yoga class helps us prepare our bodies for optimal positioning in a given posture.

    In Chaturanga, there is a tendency for the scapulae to anterior tilt, causing the shoulders to punch forward into the anterior portion of the shoulder capsule. Over time, this can cause pain and/or increased wear and tear on the joint, not to mention the implications it may have for the neck, shoulders, back, and chest. What’s necessary is a healthy degree of external rotation. Matt demonstrates a few drills with a strap and blocks that help pattern the body in how to create the external rotation required for the pose. Why is this important? These drills teach us how to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, which will help stabilize the shoulder joint and recruit the serratus anterior for a stronger descent in Chaturanga.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    DEEP DIVE INTO CHATURANGA: SHOULDER ACTION CONTROVERSY

    STRAP SETUP FOR THE SHOULDERS

    These drills help us understand the foundations of the shoulder mechanics for Chaturanga.

    Pull the Strap Apart

    Here are the four key actions:

    1. Take an underhand grip of the strap.
    2. Pull the strap apart.
    3. Move the shoulder heads back.
    4. Bring the elbows in and forward.

    This drill is not static; when watching the video, we see that there is actually movement back and forth, which will help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

    Block in the Palm & Between the Elbow and the Body

    This drill can be done without  a block; however, the block between the body and elbow adds that extra awareness of activation and reminds to keep our elbows more narrow.

    Essentially what’s happening here are movements back and forth between the internal and external rotation of the humerus. Holding the additional block in the supinated palm of the same arm helps emphasize the required external rotation for Chaturanga.

    STRAP SETUP FOR THE SHOULDERS

    These drills help us understand the foundations of the shoulder mechanics for Chaturanga.

    Pull the Strap Apart

    Here are the four key actions:

    1. Take an underhand grip of the strap.
    2. Pull the strap apart.
    3. Move the shoulder heads back.
    4. Bring the elbows in and forward.

    This drill is not static; when watching the video, we see that there is actually movement back and forth, which will help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

    Block in the Palm & Between the Elbow and the Body

    This drill can be done without  a block; however, the block between the body and elbow adds that extra awareness of activation and reminds to keep our elbows more narrow.

    Essentially what’s happening here are movements back and forth between the internal and external rotation of the humerus. Holding the additional block in the supinated palm of the same arm helps emphasize the required external rotation for Chaturanga.

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    CHATURANGA AT THE WALL

    Transitioning to Chaturanga at the wall takes us to a closer setup of what position our bodies will be in. Of course, we are perpendicular to the floor in this variation, but we can negotiate hand and shoulder placement without the strength element. Matt has shown us variations at the wall before, and they are always helpful in navigating a posture.

    One of the key points in this variation, however, is the push through the heel of the hands. This action both brings the bottom wing tip of the scapulae through the arm bone, which encourages the head of the humerus to pull back, and it helps recruit the muscles of the serratus anterior. We also gain a “band of stability” in the upper body once this is in place. Once we’ve explored here, it’s time to take Chaturanga to the mat.

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    WHY PROTRACTION TO RETRACTION?

    In the video, Matt demonstrates how the shoulder blades come in towards one another on the descent portion of Chaturanga. This is what might conjure up some controversy. Matt explains that we’re not just easily allowing them to come together; instead, we’re still trying to resist the retraction in the lowering phase until we’re almost at the ground level. It’s therefore a “fight” between the actions of protraction and retraction of the scapulae.

    Remember the “push through the heel of the hand”? This ignites the protraction. The goal is to allow the shoulder blades to retract at a slow pace. Too often, we find that if there is no retraction, we can fall into the anterior tilt of the scapulae more easily. If there is no movement of the scapulae, it can affect the muscles in the front and the back of the neck by causing more strain.

    ALLOW MOVEMENT TO TAKE PLACE

    In this full workshop (The Shoulder Reset), Matt explains that going from protraction to retraction means that we are allowing the shoulder joint to move as it was designed. We are allowing gravity to do its job. When allowing the movement from protraction to retraction to take place, we are creating an eccentric contraction, which will offer a smooth descent. It will also translate into creating lightness and ease in a jump back.

    The good news is that Matt’s offering a 3-part workshop series this month, Shoulder Mastery The education we can look forward to will have a profound effect on our yoga practice overall.  

    Part I is all about shoulder mobility and heart openers, and Part II delves into shoulder strength and arm balances. Part III tackles inversions, binds, and neck & shoulder releases.

    Click Shoulder Mastery to register.

    See you on the mat!

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: The Shoulder Reset

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    Serratus Push Ups Tutorial

    Serratus Push-Ups Tutorial

    Variations for Strength

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    What Is The Importance of Serratus Anterior Push-Ups?

    When you hear the term “boxer muscles,” you most likely know that it’s referring to the serratus anterior. However you refer to it, it’s an important part of creating both stability and strength for your shoulders. A great way to strengthen the serratus anterior is by doing “serratus push-ups.” There is a variety of different ways in which to approach them. In today’s serratus push-ups tutorial video, Matt demonstrates 4 variations that help you tap into the strength required for greater access to postures that require the use of these “push” muscles. 

    Why Are They Relevant To Your Yoga Practice?

    Serratus push-ups are also commonly referred to as scapula push-ups. They are a wonderful and necessary part of your toolkit for both increased strength of your shoulders and mobility of the scapulae. The serratus anterior facilitates upward rotation of the scapulae whenever you take your arms into a position over your head. Upward rotation of the scapulae is necessary to take some of the work away from the trapezius. It also helps reduce the possibility of hypermobility in the glenohumeral joint.

    In your physical yoga practice, this is relevant in postures like Downward-Facing Dog, Chair Pose, Crescent Lunge, and Handstand (just to name a few). Upward rotation of the scapulae is also helpful in your everyday life. Having the awareness to utilize the movement of the shoulder blades when reaching for objects overhead, for example, offers the same result. You maintain greater health and movement of the shoulder because you are recruiting the use of the serratus anterior muscles to create movement of the scapula.

     

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    SERRATUS ANTERIOR MUSCLES

    These muscles run underneath your scapulae, then around to the ribcage: “The serratus anterior is ‘multi-headed’ and forms the lateral part of the chest wall, giving it a ‘serrated’ appearance.” Contracting these muscles creates the movement of the scapulae around your ribs (protraction). 

    Long, Ray. The Key Muscles of Yoga. Bandha Yoga Publications, 2005. Pg. 162

    WATCH THE VIDEO: SERRATUS PUSH-UPS TUTORIAL

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    THE 2 MAIN ACTIONS

    In a serratus push-up, the 2 main actions are retraction and protraction of the scapulae.  

    Retraction of the Scapulae

    When you are performing one of the serratus push-up variations, it’s really your torso that moves towards the surface beneath you in order to create the retraction. In this case, the scapulae are not creating the movement. The focus here is the “push,” when you actually “push the floor away” in order to move into the next action in the movement (protraction).

    Protraction of the Scapulae

    Protraction creates a great deal of stability in your shoulder joint. When you take your arms overhead in your yoga practice, it’s likely that you will default into retraction (drawing your shoulder blades towards one another). If this is your intention, that’s fine, but let’s consider what that means in the context of Handstand. If the goal is to be straight up and down and stable in the posture, of course it requires a great deal of strength. It’s important then to be extremely intentional about creating protraction of the scapulae (pushing your shoulder blades away from one another). It’s in this “push” action that you recruit and rely on the serratus anterior muscles to support and align your body for the greatest amount of stability.

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    SERRATUS PUSH-UPS: 4 VARIATIONS FOR STRENGTH

    There are specific cues for each scapular push-up variation that help you to maximize your potential to create strength.

    Variation (Level 1)

    1. Place the forearms on the floor with your knees stacked under your hips
    2. Let the chest sink into the retracted scapulae
    3. Push the elbows into the ground until scapulae push apart (creating the 2nd phase of the push-up)

    Variation (Level 2)

    1. Take your knees further away (more into a plank-like position)
    2. Execute the serratus push-ups 

    Variation (Level 3)

    1. Plank on forearms with toes tucked
    2. Execute serratus push-ups

    Variation (Level 4)

    1. Plank on forearms with toes pointed
    2. Round your back
    3. Bring ankle bones together
    4. Execute serratus push-ups

    A SIMPLE FORMULA FOR STRENGTH

    Consistency and progression are the winners here. It’s important to explore all 4 of these serratus push-up variations to find out what is most suitable for you. Matt suggests a conservative number of repetitions while you maintain integrity in your form. Once you feel like you are able to increase the number of repetitions, you may progress to the next level or variation (doing only a conservative amount) in order to become aware of whether or not you wish to return to the previous level, possibly increasing the number of repetitions. Exploring in this way over time is a recipe for increased strength in the serratus anterior and increased stability of the scapulae.

    There is still time to explore more of this in Matt’s current immersion, Handstand & Meditation.

    See you on the mat!

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    Video Extracted From: Handstand & Meditation Immersion

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