Chataranga… What’s the Fuss?

There’s a lot of talk around chataranga and it often gets bad press. Blamed for shoulder injuries, wrist pain and all sorts, though it’s just a plank with bent elbows with the joints in a functional range, so what’s all the fuss?!

The pose can be done repeatedly through vinyasa transitions and as injuries often occur through repetition of a thing not done well, where chataranga is concerned, I think this could possibly be due to a misunderstanding of the pose, perhaps viewing the pose as a transition and not as a posture in its own right.

For instance, knees chest chin was offered for years as an alternative to chataranga. There is nothing wrong with this movement, but that is what it is, a transitional movement, it’s a way of getting a person from down dog and/or sometimes other postures to the floor. Whereas chataranga is a posture. The vinyasa transition that includes chataranga links active postures together and has no anatomical resemblance to the transitional movement of knees chest and chin.

At one time, people who practised yoga with the option of knees, chest and chin OR chataranga, understandably viewed them as a hierarchy and saw chataranga as a progression, something to work towards. However, once people felt strong enough to add in the chataranga pose, often did so whilst still carrying out the pattern physically of doing knees chest and chin just without the knees touching the floor – does that make sense? Treating chataranga as more of a transition than a posture and not applying the relevant muscle strength required in holding a plank position.

Whilst a person is building core strength to be able to do plank with bent elbows – CHATARANGA, the option of lowering to elbow height or just above elbows is a good functional choice to make. Taking the body lower without the relevant strength to hold the pose brings the body closer to the pull of gravity and without required strength may result in the joints taking over to do the work of holding it together and/or the body collapsing. This isn’t necessarily a problem if it’s done now and again, though if repeatedly done then it could be problematic in some instances.

If the body has the strength to hold chataranga well, then the body can be lowered as low as a person chooses and all the way to the floor if a person wants to, as the body has control of the muscles.

The option of chataranga with one leg off the floor is challenging. It requires a lot of strength so as not to dip deeply into the lower back increasing the lumbar curve. Think about when you do a plank on hands or forearms we are trying to keep a neutral spine, we wouldn’t aim to dip the back and lift the hips, it’s the same with chataranga.

Hands placed inline with the side of the ribs works well in balancing the weight of the body. When directly under the shoulders body weight is behind us and not so easy to maintain strength and structure. The hugging in sensation often referred to of elbows drawing in towards centre can be achieved whether the hands/arms are very close to the body or at a slightly wider stance.

Bottom line is it’s not black and white and will be different from person to person.

Catherine x