The One Thing You Must Do in Low Plank
If I’m really honest, there are a whole bunch of things you need to do in Low Plank. Keep your palms pressed down, pull in your tummy and stretch back through your legs, to name a few. But there is one thing that really scares me when I see it. (Since I can’t seem to turn off my yoga-teacher-eyes, I see it a lot!)
The big no-no is; drum roll please… Shoulders. Rolling. Forward.
We have got to stop this habit!
Somewhere, some yoga guru must have told someone they needed to hug their elbows in to the sides of their body. Then the community got carried away repeating this instruction without explaining it in any detail.
While pinning your elbows to your ribs in itself is not wrong, it’s only part of the picture. What most people fail to do is to simultaneously roll their shoulders back.
The instruction to move the elbows, as I see it, is about engaging the power in the arms. When done correctly — and this is the one thing you absolutely MUST do in Low Plank — the head of the arm bone (or shoulder) is integrated protectively and powerfully back into the socket.
While there isn’t a socket in the same sense as in the hip joint, good engagement of the arms packs the shoulder blades onto the back, tones the muscles of the shoulder girdle, and moves the humerus (upper arm bones) towards the scapulae (shoulder blades). And PS: It will save your wrists, and give you a head start to a deeper Cobra or Up Dog!
Here are the actions to work on in Chaturanga Dandasana next time you practice…
The Preparation (belly on the floor)
- Place your hands on the ground alongside your chest and press the four corners of your palms down.
- Lengthen the sides of your body from hip to armpit (your shoulders will actually float a little towards your ears).
- Lift your head and chest up until your shoulders are the same height as your elbows. (It sounds like a different instruction, but it’s another way to get to the one thing you MUST do in Low Plank)
- Squeeze your hands towards each other to engage the muscles all around your arms and shoulders.
- Draw your shoulder blades onto your back, broaden your collar bones and puff your chest towards your chin.
- Only pull your elbows in to assist this muscular engagement, but never so much that it rounds your shoulders forward.
The Full Pose (belly off the floor)
- Keep all of that upper body alignment.
- Walk your toes forward enough to straighten your knees and push through your heels.
- Pull in your low belly and point your tailbone towards your feet. (The only thing left on the floor should be your solar plexus.)
- Most important: Keep your shoulders back and your arms actively engaged. (The one thing you MUST do in Chaturanga Dandasana)
- Push into the floor, engage your legs and lift your solar plexus a few inches off the ground. (That’s the pose!)
- Keep your shoulders back and shoulder blades “packed” as you lower your solar plexus back to the ground.