Yoga Basics: Yoga Push Up (Chaturanga)

In today’s tutorial, you are going to get an in depth look at the Yoga Push up.  In sanskrit this pose is called Chaturanga. This is a basic yoga pose found in many “flow” type classes and can be quite a challenge because, frankly, it is hard (1) and it requires a TON of upper body and ab strength (2). Believe it or not, this pose can actually cause injury to a person’s shoulder, wrist, and elbow AND it can exacerbate low back pain (I’ve seen it done before, when they weren’t listening to the cues you’ll find here).   

You may be wondering why I am posting about such a “basic” pose, and including a video–that’s because as a yoga teacher, I see people practicing these basic poses incorrectly, dare I say dangerously all the time, and I want to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes.  Especially with the Chaturanga, I hear people complain how it “hurt their shoulder or elbow or whatever”–blaming the posture instead of blaming themselves for not trying to properly perform the posture.  When you’re in a huge studio setting with 1 teacher and 50 people, how on earth can your teacher fix you and the other 49 people?

Plus, in today’s digital world, more and more people are practicing at home without the eye of a knowledgeable, trained instructor (oftentimes leading to really REALLY bad habits), so my hope is that I can share a bit of my knowledge with you so you won’t hurt yourself (1) and so you don’t create bad habits (2).  I truly don’t want you to get hurt, so please please please, check out these cues, read these other posts, and then practice this post safely and within your level.

Let’s talk about one thing here.  I am an Ashtanga Yoga Teacher. All my major yoga trainings have been Ashtanga based, whether it was my 200 and 500 hour Teacher Training under a Baptiste Certified teacher, my Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training under Donna Feiner, a level 2 authorized teacher, and most recently, under my current teacher, Manju Jois who authorized me to teach Ashtanga Yoga.  All my training follows this lineage, therefore all my cues, alignment proclivities, etc are derived from the Ashtanga Yoga Lineage.  Yoga is thousands of years old and has been taught by the oral traditional and with the teacher/student relationship. It is only this century where yoga books have popped up all over and in mass quantities.  

Yoga itself, wasn’t even really in the states themselves until the second half of the 19th century–so that means there is a LOT of information out there.  The information I share with you today is based off my experience, my training, and my lineage, which is Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri Pattahbi Jois, through his son Manju Pattahbi Jois.

Here’s one thing I HIGHLY recommend–before we even get into the postural alignment cues–grab your smartphone, prob it up against something, and record yourself while performing several of these poses.  What is your booty doing? Are your elbows staying in? Where is your gaze? Are your elbows over your wrists? Is your belly in? The single best way to figure out your chaturanga is to practice it–and practice it with real time feedback–or close to real time feedback.  This single act alone revolutionized so much of my practice.

Key points to remember when you’re practicing your Yoga Push up:

1) Start in a strong plank, with arms directly under shoulders and wrists stacked under shoulders, up on your toes or down on your knees–your booty is down, but not sagging..

2) Push yourself forward onto your toes  (if you are on your knees, try to lean forward, keeping abdominal muscles engaged.)

3) Lower one half the way down–don’t let your shoulders go below your elbows (so we’re working towards 90 degress.)

4) Keep your head, shoulders, booty all in one line–so no sagging tushies or chest.

5) Your gaze is slightly forward if that’s ok with your neck, but if that hurts, look down just don’t let the bowling ball head fall down

6) Don’t stick your ribs out (keep those belly muscles engaged.)

7) Hold your shoulders down and away from the ears, even as you lower.

8) Your belly is IN (A LOT)

9) Your tailbone is lengthening down.

Remember, always keep your stomach muscles engaged and try not to tilt that tailbone out.  (this cue can reduce back pain) This pose isn’t one where you should stay too long because it is a LOT of pressure in the wrists and in the low back BUT, if you practice these safe cues, you will find that it is a MUCH more approachable pose that can even be enjoyed!.

Click HERE for the video demo:

Did you give it a try?  What did you think? Was it a little harder now that you took a minute to break every little thing down and focus on the muscles?  Keep practicing, it does get easier.

If you would like to learn more about Jennifer or if you would like to practice with Jennifer in person and you’re in the Chattanooga, TN area, come to Thrive Yoga and Wellness.  We offer almost 40 classes each week in a variety of modalities from beginners to advanced, to chair and seniors all the way to super physical HIT yoga.  It’s a great studio in the suburbs with ample parking and the community vibe even the folks at Cheers would be proud of. (How’s THAT for showing my age?!?!)

Or if you’re not in the area and still want to practice with me, you can totally do it for free, virtually.  I even have a free free 5 day HIT (High Intensity Training) Yoga challenge you can sign up to do and get 5 free HIT Yoga classes delivered straight to your inbox.  It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work. You’ll take your yoga skills and strength to a whole new level and be sore in the best possible way that you won’t want to stop on day 5!  I can’t wait to practice with you!

In the video, I was practicing on my still kicking Manduka Eko Mat. (that is an affiliate link, it doesn’t cost you a dime but it helps out a small business, so thank you!)  I wrote a blog post about this killer mat several months ago and if you’d like to check it out and why I love it so much, go here.
This post was written by Jennifer Dixon MBA ERYT 500 and Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher.  She is the lead teacher in the Thrive Yoga and Wellness 200 hr Yoga For Every Body Teacher Training program: the Chattanooga area’s ONLY modular 200 hr Yoga Alliance approved Teacher Training program that allows you to train when YOUR schedule allows.  With two semesters each year and plenty of opportunity to practice and train year round, this is the BEST yoga teacher training program for busy folks.  Gone are the stresses about missed training weekends, you don’t have to worry about exhaustion and tears from super long intense weekend trainings every month–with the Thrive Yoga Teacher Training program, you train when your schedule allows and live your best life now.  Yoga Teacher Training should be fun, come practice with us and let us show you how!  Another great perk of training at Thrive? You get an unlimited membership to the studio for one full year while you train!  NO ONE ELSE offers this amazing deal (worth $1100!) and it’s the PERFECT way to get the training you want with the practice you need.  Our next semester starts in August of 2019! See you on the mat soon!