As we look further into the complex universe of the shoulder joint and the role it plays in our Yoga practice, a posture whose eminence and frequency demands a clear overview is Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Plank). The amount of times I have had students give me notice that they can no longer perform this pose because of the strain they feel in their shoulder/s, exceeds my capacity to recount.
Like many other teachers, the technique that I initially learned to perform this pose with was very cursory and missed the anatomical integrity that it so badly deserves.
The most common and omissions I see over and over again are:
1. Alignment of shoulders with respect to the hands
2. The angle of the humerus (upper arm) with respect to the torso
3. The grip/contact of the hands on the mat
4. Position of the head
The all too pervasive instruction in this pose is to move the shoulders forward of the hands and maintain a vertical line of the forearms (pic 1). The danger with this technique is that it places an unnecessary amount of stress on the anterior shoulder joint capsule (pic 2). The shoulders’ inherently shallow socket and lack of stability, requires us to recruit as much muscular force as possible in containing its proper alignment.
When the shoulders are placed beyond the hands, the muscular demand on sustaining stability is so great that students often rely on their joint capsule to bear the weight of the body. The joint capsule is not meant for this. Moreover, the natural design of the shoulder joint possesses the least amount of support on the anterior side, where the brunt of the damage to the capsule often occurs.
The safer and more functional alignment of Chaturanga (pic3) closely mimics that of the traditional and time-tested push-up, where the placement of the shoulders relative to the hands is more vertical.
I will review the other points from above in the coming posts. Please stay tuned!
This and much more Dr Allison McLean and I cover in our trainings!
As always feel free to email any questions to [email protected].