I'm coaching a teacher training at CorePower Yoga here in Seattle, and it starts this week!
Going through yoga teacher training is an amazing experience in general. You learn so much about yoga philosophy and yourself. But one of the things I appreciate most about the CorePower training, is that it takes you all the way back to the basics.
This theme has been cropping up all over my life as I start my own business and as I spend more time teaching yoga.
One of the most basic sequences of postures taught in vinyasa yoga is chatturanga dandasana. It's a central transition we use all the time in class, and because it's so much like a push-up, everyone who works out thinks they're doing it safely and correctly (it's just a push-up, right?). Unfortunately, not true.
So for today, here are some key tips to keep your shoulders and lower back safe in chatturanga.
Shift forward onto your tippy-toes before you bend your elbows. That way your elbows will be directly above your wrists, this is safer for your elbow joints.
Hug your elbows into the sides of your body so they actually touch your rib cage. Different from a push-up where you're using your chest muscles, this is really about your triceps.
Shoulders stay above your elbows to protect your rotator cuff.
Keep your neck long and look to the top edge of your mat.
Pull your belly up and in. Better to have a little booty pop than sag down toward the mat. This will protect your lower back. If that's just not happening...
You can always do this on your knees instead. It's a great option to build up that tricep strength.
Then for urdhva mukha svanasana (upward facing dog), some other key bits:
Point your toes like ballerina feet. Try to make your feet as long as possible. Then your not putting pressure on a weird part of your toes.
Levitate your knees and thighs off the mat. You do this by engaging the muscles around your core, which, in turn, protects your lower back in the back bend.
If you feel awkward lifting your legs off the mat, no problem, just keep a bend in your elbows instead so the back bend isn't so intense. You should still pull your belly in toward your spine.
Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your neck as long as possible.
Gaze either down or straight ahead. No need to look way up toward the ceiling. That puts unnecessary pressure on your neck.