“. . . according to the Yoga Sutra (3.1), the term [Bandha] refers to the ‘binding’ of consciousness to a particular object or locus (desha), which is the very essence of concentration.”
Georg Feuerstein

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Easing in" to Chaturanga Dandasana

In our last post we focused on the hip abductors and adductors and how they can be used to stabilize the pelvis and synergize flexing the hips in forward bends. In this post we zoom out and look at a technique that can be learned with Chaturanga Dandasana and then transported to other poses to improve benefits and safety. I call this technique “ease in, ease out” and it relates to how one approaches the end point of a pose.

For this cue, I take a yoga block and place it at the level of my sternum, then lower down to lightly touch it from plank position. I then straighten my arms to return to plank. The image that body weight practitioners use for this is “kissing the baby” because one touches the block as gently as kissing a baby on the forehead. Working in this manner teaches muscle control and sensitivity. 

easing in to chataranga
Figure 1

Those who avoid full Chaturanga due to weakness of the muscles involved can develop the strength for the full pose by starting at a wall as shown in figure 2. Here instead of the chest touching the block, bend the arms to lower towards the wall and gently touch the forehead, hold for a moment and then straighten the arms. Work in this manner until you can comfortably do ten repetitions. As strength builds, transition to a plank with the knees on the mat, lowering down to touch the block as in the final version. (Figure 3)

easing in to chataranga
Figure 2Figure 3

Visualizing the muscles involved is a powerful adjunct to this technique. Use a mental image of the triceps, pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles engaging to stabilize the arms, shoulders and chest as shown in figure 4. The triceps straightens the elbows and is a secondary stabilizer of the shoulder joint. The pectoralis major draws the upper arm towards the midline (adduction) and helps to expand the chest (when the shoulders are held in place). The serratus anterior extends from the upper nine ribs to inner (anterior) medial surface of the scapula. It acts in concert with the rhomboids to stabilize the shoulder blades and thus preventing “winging” of the scapula in this pose. (Figure 4)

stabilizing the shoulders in chataranga
Figure 4

Take a moment to review our post on “co-activating the gluts and abs in Chaturanga” and integrate these muscles into this technique. Also, feel free to browse through the Yoga Mat Companion series. The illustrations in these books are designed to aid in visualizing the muscles in action in a variety of poses.

Slowing the movement as one approaches the endpoint of the pose also sets up a cadence or rhythm, especially when working with a Vinyasa Flow based practice. It can be applied to any pose and also to inhalation and exhalation, thus smoothing the breath. It also aids to protect the joints, which have smooth curved surfaces that adapt best to gradual transitions during movement.

Thanks for stopping by! Check in next week for Part Three of this series on preventative strategies for lower back strains in yoga. Also, be sure to visit us on Facebook for your free Chakra poster and e-book.

Namaste’

Ray and Chris

27 comments:

  1. You are great!! Thank you so much Ray and Chris!!

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    1. You're welcome, Serli, much appreciated! Ray

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    2. Hi that is inspired - very helpful to teach and also to improve my upper body strength (my theme for the next few month). Sabine

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    3. Hello Sabine, Thanks for commenting! I found this technique to be excellent for building up to a pose. A lot of times folks give up on an asana that is attainable with gradual work. A little bit at a time over a few months and you can see some great progress. Namaste' Ray

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    4. What a wonderful way to help develop strength to eventually be able to obtain the full pose. Thank you for all of your wonderful teaching.

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  2. Ray and Chris,
    Thanks so much for all of your posts, I am always looking for new and improved ways to teach and you have so much to offer. Please keep 'em coming!!
    Donna

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    1. Many Thanks, Donna. We're delighted that you appreciate our work! Namaste'~ Ray

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  3. much love and light for aiding the healers in their healing, be well

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    1. Many Thanks, Jamie! Namaste' Ray

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  4. Great post Ray and Chris! Please, share more knowledge on integrating props in our practice. Maybe, a new book?

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    1. Hello Nikos--good to see you again here. Thanks for your compliment on this post. We have some interesting material coming out soon on props which I think you will enjoy. Will keep you posted. Best~Ray

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  5. Another great post. I learn so much for Daily Bandha. Your key poses is require for my Yoga Teacher Training. It's so good that I ordered Key Muscles as well.

    I also promote your blog post on my Facebook page too...facebook.com/yogaformen

    Thanks again for your work.

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    1. Many thanks, Jonathan. I'm delighted that you enjoy our work and much appreciate your posting it on Yoga for Men. All the Best! Ray

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  6. Por favor deseo saber el tamaño del bloque utlizado

    Gracias

    Manu

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    1. tipicamente 9 x 5.5 x 3 pulgadas, salud!

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  7. Thanks so much for this idea. I am truly enjoying this series. From the previous post, I have already picked up some cues to encourage people to keep their lower back neutral *in* this pose, but I still see those who hyperextend their lower back as they come back from chaturanga dandrasana to plank (leaving their hips down as they push the upper body up). If you have any thoughts on that, I'd love to read about them.

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  8. I just came across your website and love the breakdown of poses and pictures and descriptions! I have done yoga off and on for a couple of years now but still have so much to learn! and I recently started working at a Yoga Retreat Center so I am really motivated to learn more and improve my practice. Your website is going to be so helpful!!

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  9. I agree...you really ARE great! Thanks so much for sharing...

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    1. Thanks Cindy! All the Best~Ray

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  10. I've been teaching the same thing! It is so refreshing to find out others are teaching similarly knowing we are on the same path! I will also have them rest their sternum on the block, fire up their legs, draw in and engage the bandhas then lift their hands off the floor to really tap into the danda/staff like aspect of the pose. Sometimes I will have them put another block between their knees or thighs which can be another reminder.
    Thanks again Ray and Chris! I met you both when you were in Cleveland years ago for a workshop at the Atma Center and continue to use your books. I cannot say enough how useful they are along with your ezines. Thank you!!
    ~Deanna

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    1. Thanks Deanna--I much appreciate your compliments on our work. I like your suggestions on other uses for the block, too. They are good "core builders" and will be trying them tonite! Best, Ray

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  11. Fantastic! I will definitely use this tip in my classes! Thank you so much <3

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  12. Thanks so much for this Ray and Chris. I am recovering from surgery, chemo and radio for breast cancer and have had some real problems with mobility and strength in my shoulder caused by scar tissue in the axilla. I think this will really help to focus on the shoulder blade and slowly build up the strength again.

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  13. Yes thank you! The studio I teach has a copy of your book and I geek out between classes with it.Thanks

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  14. The studio I teach at has one of your books and I geek out on it between my classes all the time. Thanks a lot!

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  15. Greetings Daily Bandha

    Thank you for the wonderful work here.

    Best Regards, Valerie

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  16. I just found your page tonight and have really enjoyed reading through many of your posts. Especially love all the graphics and visuals. I look forward to putting it in action.

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