A pose that you will do many many many times in a vinyasa class. So let's get it right. Why? It's great for your physical body if done properly. I'm only a stickler for poses if safety is involved!
Light on Yoga's take on Charuanga?
Iyengar wrote Light on Yoga and detailed the whys and wherefores of the yoga asana and philosophy. He goes further in the pose that most of us: so check out this blog to see how- or go to source! If you are into yoga you need his book. There doesn't seem to be a philosophical reason to do this pose that I can find (welcome to comment!)
Muscles it activates
"it's payoffs are great: It strengthens the arms and legs, tones the abdominals, builds healthy shoulders, and prepares students for arm balances, inversions, and backbends. And it’s character building."- Natasha Rizopoulos
Wikipedia has the best muscular description I could find about the parts we use in chaturanga. Read: just about everything. But please pay particular attention to.....
So many muscles are involved but the shoulder joint is unusual in that (you can see in this picture) the bones are just floating about and absolutely all the force will be transfered through the muscles and tissues and what not. Quite a rubbish design really for force holding but great for lots of movement. Anyhow. This means that you need to engage lots of muscles in chaturanga. If you are hurting in Chaturanga- your serratus anterior which it is hard to work in normal life may be sore and passing off responsibility to your pecs (chest) and triceps. So prep this muscle. This chap from YoungWildeandFIT gives some exercises to prepare the muscles (at 1:59 through the video 'Russian twists' and 3:50 Side plank raises so you dont have to listen to him for hours!)
What it ought to look like
Good article here shows you the following picture of what it should look like.
How to do it:
1) Start in Plank
make sure you're in a straight line and are activating your core. Hands directly below your shoulders
2) Send your heels back
This engages your legs and makes you activate your core
3) Prep your body- think Mid line
Hugging your thighs into the mid line means you take some of the force of the posture into your legs and core. But also hug your shoulder blades in too.
4) Coming down part I - straight line
Make sure you are still straight by using a mirror or friend. You are likely to do the two mistakes- bum up in the air (if you're not engaging your core enough generally men do this) or bow your back back bending you sink your tummy too low (if you do this your shoulders are not strong enough yet to take the push up mostly ladies have this) For BOTH do it with your knees down to build your strength.
5) Coming down part II - with elbows in
Make sure your elbows are hugged in. This means you don't use your pecs too much and you use your triceps (batwings!)
6) Coming down part III- stop lowering when you have 90 degrees in your elbows
Or in other words it's not a full push up! yey! so look back at your elbows and make sure they are in line with your shoulders. Get used to this feeling first by standing in the posture. Sounds silly but it works. Mirrors, teachers and friends are useful too. If you can hold for a while down here you are doing well.
7) Coming down part IV-head forward
So that your neck is also in that straight line you look forward maybe 1 foot it depends on your anatomy. But if you let your nose touch the floor you're collapsing into your shoulders which isnt good, it's near impossible not to send your elbows out and your body is highly likely not to be straight. So face forward is a good way to get the rest of your body to obey you!
8) keep that nice shoulder alignment ALL THROUGH!
It's great for your every day posture because you are putting your shoulder blades flat on your back and most people day to day don't do this. It makes you look more confident and how your back is designed to be held (pre laptop slouches!) But it will feel unnatural at the beginning. Try it when you are standing first so you get the hang of the feeling.
I like this article here which explains it in a different way.
So enjoy your Four Limbed Staff!
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