Recently, I have seen a lot of people coming back to yoga classes post-pandemic with shoulder injuries. Often a shoulder injury means we need to modify our practice and one of the most common poses for shoulder pain is chaturanga. As a yoga teacher, I rarely do chaturanga, and I rarely teach it. It’s a tough pose for most people to get right and avoid shoulder tension. If you can’t do chaturanga or just choose not to, instead try these two vinyasa flow modifications. Perfect for shoulder injuries, sore wrists, or just as an alternative to chaturanga.
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Can’t do chaturanga?
As I said, chaturanga is a tricky pose for so many as shoulder/wrist injuries are prevalent in today’s society. It can also be an especially tough pose for anyone lacking in core or upper body strength. And unfortunately, it’s a pose that can aggravate, and even cause shoulder pain when done incorrectly. For this reason, I rarely teach it, and rarely do it myself in my own practice. It feels wrong, it looks wrong, and so I say skip it, and try something else instead!
If you can’t do chaturanga, the first thing to try is to simply drop the knees to the floor. This action shortens the lever and means you have less weight to lower towards the floor. Personally, this is the variation I teach in classes. And even for my advanced clients, I have them do this version as a warm-up for full chaturanga. Rather than an upward-facing dog, I advise cobra pose. Then return through all fours and into downward-facing dog.
If lowering the knees to the floor still causes some issues in your shoulders (or wrists) then try this variation from the earth salutation sequence. Instead of plank come to all fours, then sit into child’s pose. Rise to kneel, as your upward dog alternative. Perhaps even exploring camel pose for a backbend. Then return to child’s pose.
This sequence is a great alternative if you can’t do chaturanga. Even if the reason is you’re not strong enough, yet! Work on strength outside of your vinyasa, and instead modify your flow practice to avoid injury.
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- Can you do chaturanga?
- Do you have a shoulder/wrist injury?
- What poses do you modify regularly?