About six months ago, the studio where I teach put out an all-call for teachers to submit their own chaturanga “selfies.”
Yeah, not one of us responded.

Seriously, who wants that posture picked apart on Facebook by a bunch of arm chair anatomy experts in a slew of unending cues as comments … which will inevitably snowball into a debate about shoulders, pain and injury… until next thing you know, some yoga-asana expat will write a scathing blog about it (and Ashtanga) with your picture as the star witness. Of course, I’m joking. (Not.)

Here’s the deal, no one wants to have their chaturanga examined and dissected because it’s so damn hard. It requires total body integration. So basically, most of ours suck need improvement.
Sure, we try to isolate and fix the problems. Ever watch how that goes?
Lift your belly — hips lift instead.
Lower your hips —- belly sinks now.
Move your shoulders back —- upper body dips.
Move your body forward —- here comes the dive bomb.
Stack elbows over wrists —- shoulders shrug around ears.

Because it’s almost impossible to isolate each and every action without some counter-compensating (evil) action showing up along with. And that’s why in yoga, as with many in sports training, we want to train movements, not muscles.

So today’s Asana Quickfix is for the pose that selfie’s shun: chaturanga. And for this, you need a friend and a wall.
And instead of sucking in this or tightening up that – we will activate all the small stabilizing muscles by lengthening the torso to provide the strength necessary to suspend our spine without overtaxing the shoulders or collapsing the low back and belly:
Chaturanga dandasana

Chaturanga dandasana head

Now, lets be clear. JM’s chaturanga in the top picture is nothing to scoff at. In fact, I doubt if I didn’t need a model to demonstrate, I’d not even pick on her at all… probably.

However, if I were to nitpick – I’d love to get JM’s shoulders back just a bit and her hips more in line, without her collapsing. Which in the bottom picture you can see, we did just that.

Here’s how:
1. JM braced her feet against the wall, taking high plank.
2. I positioned myself like a linebacker and provided a similar brace at the crown of her head.
3. As JM lowered into position, she pushed the balls of her feet into the wall and the crown of her head into my hand with equal intensity. That’s all.

This lengthening action stabilizes the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle all at once, keeping the energy of the posture balanced evenly along the entire length of the body, from feet to head.

And then of course, the real challenge is to initiate all this without the braces on either end. Try it out and let me know how it goes.

Your shoulders, I bet, will thank you.