So your shoulders are screaming out for love in the form of, “Please don’t go to another yoga class!” I know, I know… the thought of doing fifty chatturangas over the course of an hour DOES NOT sound appealing to you. Buuuut, you still tryna get your workout on. So, what’s a yogi to do?
Teaching yoga to surfers had me super conscious about their shoulders. I’d teach an hour-long vinyasa class in the morning constantly trying to figure out ways that I wouldn’t burn their shoulders and triceps out before a day of surfing ensued. So I came up with a few good alternatives to chatturangas, that still work to strengthen the arms, shoulders and back, but without the dreaded pushups.
No. 1 | Rock and Roll
Once I had everyone at a high plank, instead of having them do a chatturanga, I just had them rock back to down dog and roll forward back to high plank three times. You can decide how many times works for your flow, maybe just once is suitable for your class. In any case, this still engages the arms, core, shoulders, back and even the legs, plus it adds some nice flow to the class.
No. 2 | Down On Bended Knees
Another alternative that doesn’t completely ditch that chatturanga is dropping the knees and then lowering down. Dropping the knees decreases the body weight and makes lowering down a whole lot easier. I’ve found it extremely effective as a modification for beginner classes as well. Upper body strength takes time to build, especially for new yogis so this is a great way to relieve some pressure off the pose.
No. 3 | Step Back Sally
Another option as you go through your vinyasa, is to step back into low or high lunges instead of coming into them from downward dog. Stepping back from a standing pose rather than downward dog is a great alternative because it doesn’t put pressure on the shoulders at all. In fact, if you go this route you can actually completely skip the vinyasa altogether. If I use this method, I usually still take them through a vinyasa after a complete sequence of poses but maybe I offer No. 1 or No. 2 as well.
No. 4 | Boogie Down Dog
Another great way to skip a vinyasa is to go straight from your high plank to downward dog. Kind of like the rock and roll method but just going straight back. From there you can initiate the next sequence by raising the leg and stepping through. Also, after your sequence, you can step up to a forward fold and start a new vinyasa flow instead of coming back to down dog. This will provide some additional refuge for tired shoulders.
No. 5 | Yin to Your Yang
Another way to give relief to the upper body is by doing a yin flow or going to a yin class. Yin classes are super grounding and slow paced, focusing on stretching and holding poses to restore muscles and ligaments. Taking a yin class is a great balance to a rigorous power vinyasa flow and can provide awesome balance and restoration. In addition, most poses are on the ground and there ain’t no chatturangas coming to that party! Win, win, yall.
These are some of my tried and true methods for skipping the vinyasas in your yoga flow if and when the body calls for it. There’s no shame in skipping that chatturanga, baby. Part of our yoga practice is ahimsa, or non-violence, and self-study, or ishvara pranidhana. Meaning, be compassionate and know yourself. Listening to your body and practicing conscious movement will promote longevity in this wonderful thing we call yoga.
Peace, love and namaste!