Protecting your joints in Vinyasa

One of the key components of many yoga classes is the sun salutation or Surya Namaskar. It is incredible challenging! Many beginning practitioners struggle, but with practice, everyone can build the strength to do this move. It is best to modify first.

I see a lot of more advanced practitioners execute these moves in a way that can do damage to the joints.

We want to build strength and flexibility in our practice, but above all else, as a teacher, I want to reduce the risk of injury: both acute and chronic.

Years of putting pressure on your shoulders and elbows by doing Urdhva Mukha Svanasana/up-dog/upward facing dog and Adho Mukha Svanasana/downward facing dog incorrectly can do more harm than good.

I have created a short tutorial to help you in your Vinyasa transition from plank through upward facing dog to downward facing dog safely and effectively.

The video version is posted on my You Tube channel as well as here. Below are descriptions and photos.

Modified Chaturanga. You can modify this difficult move by going from your knees rather than toes. Chest aims to the mat and then if you are moving into cobra, your hips press the mat as your chest opens. Elbows should be by your side and shoulders down. Avoid throwing your head back and putting pressure on your neck.

INCORRECT MODIFIED CHATURANGA

IMG_0436

CORRECT MODIFIED CHATURANGA

IMG_0431

Cobra can be used rather than upward facing dog. It is still excellent for the back, but more gentle. It is important that shoulders draw down away from the ears and that elbows hug the body. Try to avoid tilting the head too far back, which puts a lot of pressure on the lower neck.

INCORRECT COBRA                                            

IMG_0428  IMG_0420

CORRECT COBRA

IMG_0427    IMG_0444

Chaturanga. From toes, this is a challenging move requiring core and arm strength. Chest still aims slight to the floor and the elbows don’t go above the shoulders. From her you transition to your upward facing dog.

INCORRECT CHATURANGA

IMG_0443

CORRECT CHATURANGA

IMG_0434

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana/up-dog/upward facing dog is a more challenging posture. It is easy to do this with locked elbows, hunched shoulders and dropped hips. Instead, micro-bend the elbows, roll the shoulders down and back, keep the neck in neutral and think of extending the spine rather than just dropping the pelvis. Lift up the chest and press down with the hands.

INCORRECT UPWARD FACING DOG

IMG_0442     IMG_0422

CORRECT UPWARD FACING DOG

IMG_0430    IMG_0437

Adho Mukha Svanasana/down-dog/downward facing dog. Whichever pose you do prior, everyone ends up in down dog. Avoid collapsing into your shoulders in an effort to bring your chest towards your legs. Roll the shoulders down away from the ears, micro-bend the elbows, let the head go, and think about driving your heels into the mat and your sit bones up to the ceiling.

INCORRECT DOWNWARD FACING DOG

IMG_0435    IMG_0438

CORRECT DOWNWARD FACING DOG

IMG_0405     IMG_0446

There you go! As with everything, it just takes practice, but if you practice doing it correctly you will get it and you will reduce your chance of injury.

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