Can’t Do a Yoga Push-up? Try This Chaturanga Modification Instead

Photo: GettyImages/ Fizkes
I'm a five-days-a-week CrossFit-enthusiast, so imagine my surprise when thirty minutes into my first ever yoga class my arms were trembling. Chaturanga? Chaturang-ouch.  Sure, I knew intellectually that yoga is hard, but given my strength-training background, I'd assumed I'd be able to take on the yoga push-up—as this pose is often referred to—like a pro. I couldn't have been more wrong.

"Chaturanga—essentially a plank with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle all while hovering above the mat and trying to resist own body weight—requires a ton of upper body and core strength," says yoga instructor, Francesca Valarezo, who happens to be leading our next Well+Good Retreat in Miami this December. "It's full body but it primarily works your triceps, biceps, shoulders, core, and back."

Even if you can do a push-up, this pose requires more stability and strength, Valarezo tells me. Add all that prerequisite strength to the fact that a lot of Western-style yoga classes feature the infamous high-to-low plank pose over and over (and over and over), and it's not surprising that this pose is one that many yogis struggle with.

"While you're working up the strength to do chaturanga, take the pose from your knees while in class," says Valarezo.

"The trouble is, when you go into a yoga class and do the pose incorrectly again and again, you increase your risk of injury. You can create too much tension and pressure on the shoulder joint, which can damage the rotator cuff," says Valarezo. While there are steps you can take to set yourself up for a stronger and safer chaturanga over time—I wanted to know what to do when I'm in class and struggling.

"While you're working up the strength to do chaturanga, take the pose from your knees while in class," says Valarezo. Start in a high plank with shoulders stacked over your wrists, and gaze forward. Then, drop to your knees so that there's straight line from your head to your knees. Ground down through the inner edges of your hands and rotate your upper arms externally so you feel your shoulder blades press into your back. Squeeze your glutes and core to prevent your belly or back from sagging. Then, exhale and keeping your elbows tucked in close to your sidebody, bend your elbows until they are at a 90 degree angle. Hold for two breaths.

Keep in mind, there's no need to do every. single. chaturanga while you're in class, especially once you're tired. "You can always go down onto your stomach and take baby cobra or even happy baby," says Valarezo. And with that you're on your way to nailing the yoga push-up.

Have you heard the news? Francesca Valarezo is leading our next wellness retreat. To get more yoga and meditation intel from her in person, email to book your spot in Miami. 

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