Have you seen that adorable meme? It’s a picture of T-Rex with his mouth touching the ground and his little arms lingering in space, unable to connect to the floor. The caption says: “T-Rex Hates Chaturanga.”
It makes me giggle every time I see it on a t-shirt or on a pinterest board. Poor T-Rex can’t reach the floor with his little arms and as such he doesn’t like low plank! I know many yogis whose arms reach the floor and they also don’t like low plank. Those who do it correctly feel their energy in the triceps and those who don’t feel it in the shoulders. No doubt about it: low planks are a challenge.
I am not one to teach a million chaturanga to urdva muhka transitions. As a Prana Flow teacher, I have learned many different ways to transition through a vinyasa and will often find myself exploring different backbends and other challenges with our arm strength on the mat. The biggest reason is due to alignment. Low plank, or chaturanga has to be one of the most challenging asanas in terms of alignment and as such I tend not to teach it that frequently. If I do, there are specific rules I bring attention to that I would like to gift to you as well.
NEVER jump back to high plank. It will blow out your shoulders very quickly. When you jump back you should find yourself in a low plank. When you’re in high plank your shoulders are over your wrists and your arms are straight and rigid. If you jump into this position, you are putting added pressure to the straight arms and therefore effecting your shoulders. If you’re not strong enough quite yet, thats okay! Step back one foot at a time and lower your body slowly to the floor.
Lower your bottom. Chances are that in your plank pose, you bottom is too high or too low in the air. You want to find yourself in a straight line. Think about standing in tadasana (mountain pose). When you’re in that position, you are staking your shoulders over your hips, hips over your feet. The same thing applies in plank, so get your shoulders and hips on the same plane. Engage your core, because you should feel both high and low plank in your core muscles as well are your arms.
Keep your elbows hugging your ribs. When we lower down from high to low, I often see chicken wings in my classes. Keep those elbows tucked in tight by your side. This is not a push-up in any traditional sense and you need those elbows close to lower down safely and slowly.
When transitioning anywhere in the plank/dog series, be sure to use both feet at the same time. Teachers says: “roll over your toes” often and we mean that we would like you to roll over both feet at the same time. Unless you’re not strong enough to jump back, there is no reason you should be lowering both feet one at a time. If you’re strong enough in the core, use both feet at the same time to jump back and to roll from upward dog into downward dog. This will save you years of chiropractic adjustments on your hips and low back as you’ll be fully in balance.
**And it’s OKAY when you’re gaining strength, but once you’re strong enough, roll those toes.**
These simple rules will help to keep you in alignment and allow you to transition safely between poses. Be sure to add breath (and a smile) to every asana and you’ll always be on the right path.