Chaturanga Dandasana is a pose that elicits strong feelings—from happiness to anxiety and everything in between. Even though we often see the Chaturanga as a shoulder strengthener, every part of your body really needs to participate.
Shoulder strain, even tendon tears can come relying too much on arm and shoulder strength to do the pose. Unhealthy alignment can also cause chronic shoulder strain. Practicing with care and mindfulness is essential.
Using Yoga Blocks in Chaturanga can teach your shoulders proper alignment by preventing the shoulders from pushing forward. Yoga Blocks can also take some of the load off your shoulders—both literally, and by teaching the rest of the body to step up to the plate.
Here’s a post that explains how the position of a small bone you may never have heard of, the hyoid bone, can strengthen your Chaturanga by making aligning your structure and engaging your core.
Remember that quality is much more important than quantity in yoga practice. One or two healthily aligned Chaturangas will confer much more benefit than 20 misaligned ones. And those 20 misaligned Chaturangas can cause shoulder havoc down the road. Use your Yoga Blocks to teach yourself how to align your body and use your legs and core to help support you.
Setting Up Your Yoga Blocks:
• Place two Yoga Blocks at their highest height shoulder distance apart at the head end of your Yoga Mat.
• Place your hands behind the blocks with your middle fingertips touching the blocks.
• Step your feet back into a straight-armed plank—with your either on the floor or extended straight—and align your shoulders over your wrists.
• Keeping your legs and core firm, shift your shoulders forward.
• Lower the heads of your shoulders to the Yoga Blocks. Take care not to collapse your shoulders onto the blocks; keep your legs and core strong.
• Do not lift your head. Keep the back of your neck long and draw your throat gently back. (The above-referenced article explains this in more detail.)
• Build strength by pressing down into your hands and lifting your shoulders slightly off your Yoga Blocks. You can also play with hovering over the Yoga Blocks for a few breaths.
• At any time, feel free to place your knees on the floor to take some of the strain off the shoulders.
• Take five to ten deep breaths before resting in Child’s Pose for five to ten breaths.
Here’s a post that describes all the options and how to choose the Yoga Blocks that are best for your personal practice.