Chaturanga (chatur=four; anga=limb; danda=staff, stick) is an excellent pose to build awareness of the muscles that support and stabilize our shoulder blades. It is also an excellent core exercise to prepare us for more challenging arm balances. Benefits are as follows:
– Strengthen the legs, buttocks, back, abs, shoulders, arms, and wrists;
– Improves circulation and digestion
– Relieves minor tendonitis and fatigue
– Energizes the body
– Improves concentration and develops focus.
1. Contraindications :
– Carpal tunnel syndrome
2. Anatomical Focus:
3. Getting into the pose:
Starting from plank pose, or high push up, our wrists are stacked under our shoulders and our body is parallel to the floor with our toes on the mat. In this position, the pectoralis muscles of the chest are keeping us in a push-up position. To avoid sagging into the wrist joints, we need to recruit the larger muscles of our shoulders for support. Imagine moving our heart closer to the floor without bending the elbows, the shoulder blades will tend to glide closer to each other. This actively engages our rhomboid muscles between the shoulder blades and the spine, and the middle portion of our diamond shaped trapezius muscle.
b. Upper Body
To lower our body from plank position, the action of inward and outward rotation at the shoulder joint must be balanced. The outward rotation of teres major and infraspinatus muscles of the rotator cuff counteract the inward pull of the pectoralis muscles, and lattisimus dorsi on the back. By nature of the fact that our palms are on the mat, the pronator muscles of the forearm are activating an inward rotation at the wrist. To maintain neutral rotation at our shoulder joint, our elbows must hug to our sides to engage the triceps, whose natural action is pure flexion and extension at the elbows. It is important to maintain the engagement of the scapular support muscles that we started with in plank pose. This means that we keep an open heart moving forward, broad across the collarbones, and our shoulder tips never drop below our elbows. The subscapularis muscle of the rotator cuff (on the underside of the shoulder blade) is working over time to prevent the arm bone from moving forward out of the shoulder joint.
To avoid sagging into the low back or popping up with our hips, our core muscles must be engaged. Use a gentle contraction of uddiyana bandha, sucking the belly button up and in, flattening the lower belly. This action corresponds to engaging the transversus abdominus, which provides stability to the lower spine. A slight tuck under of the tailbone can aid this action. The contraction of the transversus abdominus is maintained throughout chaturanga to keep our body parallel to the floor and avoid any lower back discomfort. Press back firmly through the heels to distribute the weight to our core and upper body and send weight into the legs.
d. Lower Body
The action of pressing back into the heels activate the muscles that dorsi flex our ankles, namely tibialis anterior on the front of the shin. Our hamstrings lengthened by the action of the extended knee initiated by our quadriceps muscles in the front of the thighs. To keep our alignment, our thighs are pressing towards each other but not touching, like we are holding a block with the adductor muscles of the groin.