Why Are Yoga Pushups (Chaturanga) So Difficult?

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By Kreg Weiss, B HKin • September 29th, 2010 • 68495 Views

Why Are Yoga Pushups (Chaturanga) So Difficult?

You start off your yoga flow with a wonderful period of calm centering following by an invigorating series of breath work.  Your yoga teacher guides you into a light series of cat poses and eases you into mountain pose.  Then, your teacher sets your stance for a vinyasa flow.  You feel ready, full of confidence and awareness.  You breath in, arms rise with grace.  Then you exhale and fold mindfully into standing forward bend.  You then inhale to extend the spine and prepare for your step back.  Then, IT comes, the yoga pushup!

Chaturanga is a highly delicate pose to perform.  Without proper strength and alignment, chronic injuries can easily develop.  The sense of struggle with inadequate form also generates a negative energy feedback causing your overall practice to be lacking in benefits.

So what causes Chaturanga to be such a challenge?  Here are 5 key reasons why yoga pushups feel so difficult and some of the common alignment issues:

1)  Yoga Pushups are triceps muscle dominant

The hand position from downward facing dog to chaturanga is a narrow arm stance.  Due to the close (shoulder width) position of the arms, the chest muscles (which are the largest and strongest anterior upper body muscle group) are not able to effectively engage and support this pose.  Therefore, the muscle loading is shifted to the much smaller and often much weaker (particularly for women) triceps and front shoulder muscles. 

2)  Yoga pushups can cause shoulder girdle destabilization

If the triceps and front shoulder muscles do not have sufficient strength to perform the pose and the transition to the floor, the body instinctively tries to incorporate the chest muscles.  One of the actions of chest muscle contraction is internal rotation of the upper arm (humorous) bone.  In a proper yoga pushup descent, we want the elbows and upper arms to be flush to the ribs.  However, when the chest muscles are engaged to compensate for weak arms and shoulders, this internal rotation action from the chest muscles pulls the upper arms and elbows outwards.  This often leads to the shoulder blades pulling forward, a ‘winging of the shoulder blades, and a cascading destabilization; all of which can lead to injury in the musculature supporting the shoulder girdle.

3)  Yoga pushups can cause wrist compression injuries

The same internal rotation of the upper arm by the chest muscles carries down the arm.  As the elbows flow outwards from the ribs,...


Kreg Weiss, B HKin

Location:  Montreal, CA

Kreg is a certified Hatha Yoga Teacher and Kinesiologist (exercise science).  All of his classes integrate a purposeful, meditative quality to allow for an experience of connection and reflection while the body explores expansion and renewal. Kreg acquired...