Friday Follies: Chatarunga (Yogi Push-Up)
This video, the person shows you 3 common mistakes people make in their “yoga push up”
3 common errors according to the video (ie, DONT do the following three things)
1. butt higher than the shoulders (WE CALLED THIS CHATUR-ASS-ANA IN YOGA TEACHER TRAINING! BWAH).
2. saggy pelvis
3. elbows out to the side
Here are my tips for a great chaturanga dandasana
Chaturanga Dandasana is that position at the bottom of your “yoga push up”.
A good plank is essential to mastering chaturanga dandasana - a strong core with the protected back (slight tuck to the pelvis by pulling abs in and up) and strong straight legs (think of engaging the thighs so you feel your kneecaps ‘lift’). Your hands are underneath your shoulders … not underneath your face. If you have a saggy butt or droopy pelvis, you need to work on your plank. I also say to not “sit” in the joints. Think of getting your heart higher than your shoulders (ie, “push the mat away from you”) instead of sitting, “resting” in the shoulder girdle. Also, dont lock your arms but do keep them straight.
Hold this rigid plank with your body as you bend your elbows back as you lower to the mat. You dont rest the chest or hips on the mat, you HOVER. Your elbows bend about 90 degrees and stop. To get your elbows to go back (and not up, mistake 3), have your middle fingers pointing forward but you want to rotate your arms so that the “eye” of your elbow faces forward. As you lower, you want your elbows to stay more or less over the wrists. To do this, most people might come to their toes a bit more to push their chest forward (this motion would make your shoulders go forward in front of the hands instead of staying over the wrists).
**In the picture link, you’ll see the only thing touching the mat are his hands and toes. If you have that saggy pelvis, your hips are probably already on the mat at the bottom of the pose. That is not a chaturanga; that will hurt your lower back. Don’t try to overcompensate and lifting the hips into a chatur-ass-ana either; that is cheating and not correct. There is no easy way out.**
Watch your ego. It’s okay to drop down to your knees until you build up the strength you need.
Practice correct form in this pose. If you do chaturanga dandasana incorrectly 100 times, congratulations you have just trained and reinforced the muscles in your body to do this pose incorrectly incorrectly 100 times. Find a proper modification that works for you so you give yourself the possibility of doing this pose correctly one day.
Modification - some of us just do not have the strength to hold chaturanga dandasana. That’s FINE! But you can also train your arms to get stronger while still going with the flow and following along with the rest of the class.
Instead of dropping into chaturanga dandasana, go to knees-chest-chin. I dont like this example of it completely. Mainly, I’d like her hands to slide a little bit lower (I always say nipple height. Its an AWESOME body part to point out so get your palm or fingers about nipple height). I also want your elbows UP (like a grasshoper’s legs) so you don’t fall into mistake number 3 of having your elbows out in no man’s land. When you lower down into knees-chest-chin, same rules apply - elbows stay close to the body, they don’t go out. So you need to make sure eyes of elbows are facing forward so when the elbows bend they go BACK and not out to the sides.
Then you point your toes, push your hips down, and pull your chest forward and up into your backbend. Cobra pose.
Then here is where you’re going to get that arm strength. You drop your chin back to the mat. Flex your toes and engage your quads to lift your knees off the mat. Tuck your pelvis (try to lift the belly off the mat). Elbows are still up like a grasshopper. You still look like you’re lying on the mat here … but you should be completely engaged and the muscles are “on”. Say a little prayer and push up into the plank pose then just slide into your down dog. Don’t peel off the mat. Get your hips off the mat the same time your chest leaves. You do this by keeping the pelvis tucked (which will prevent 2. saggy pelvis). If that doesnt work, put your knees down on the mat and push up in a similar way from your knees. Every now and then, try to do a correct chaturanga to push yourself.
* Keep your neck out of your shoulders when you lower down into whatever yogic push up pose you take (whether its knees chest chin or full on chaturanga). I can hardly think of any yoga pose where your shoulders are supposed to be at your ears.
* During your vinyasa (that cycle of the yoga push up to cobra or up dog and back into down dog), most instructors will say “add a push up if you want it” b/n the up dog and down dog. That push up is a chaturanga dandasana … not an elbows out push up.
* If you are doing the full on chaturanga dandasana and up dog (not knees chest chin to cobra), your hips ideally should never touch the mat when making these transitions. From chaturanga dandasana to up dog, you are basically pointing your toes and straightening your arms.
* If you look at your plank and chaturanga dandasana from the side, head to heels should be in a straight line. Go check yourself out. Give yourself a wink. That’s right. You got it. Now lick your lips slowl- what? Is anyone still reading this?
Don’t cheat in your vinyasas! You’re only cheating yourself. Watch your ego and take modifications when you need them. This is where you don’t gauge yourself against other yogis. If everyone else is doing full on chaturangas and you need to use your knees every now and then, DO IT. BE SELFISH. Get what you need out of practice.
Yoga is not a competition sport so don’t compare yourself against other people!
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