Should I Hug My Elbows Into The Ribs In Chaturanga?


December 7, 2021     chaturanga | serratus anterior | Your Questions

Transcript of: Should I hug my elbows into the ribs in chaturanga?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you’ve got a question that you want to submit, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and we’ll get it done for you. This month’s question comes from Scott Robinson and it’s about whether to hug the elbows into the ribs in chaturanga.

The Question:

“Hi David, I was watching your video [DK: Thank you for watching my other videos!] on the mechanics of chaturanga. On my YouTube, a video popped up saying that you should never hug your elbows into the ribs (or at least initiate external rotation of the shoulder joint) in chaturanga. This feels like a natural, strong movement to me and I’d be interested in your views. Thanks, Scott.”

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The Answer:

Yeah Scott, great! Words like never should never be used. I haven’t gone back to look at the YouTube video. And, I have a few videos on chaturanga. I don’t teach students to hug the elbows into the ribs in chaturanga. They’re in. They’re close, but they’re not necessarily hugging the ribs. Now, I have my reasons for it. I don’t know about this other person who had a video popping up.

You could come up with reasons to hug the elbows into the ribs in chaturanga. You know, for example, if you didn’t have enough shoulder strength. But that is why I don’t teach it that way. What happens sometimes is people will squeeze their elbows into their ribs almost like an extra scaffold to help hold up their torso.

Now you could argue that that is a good thing or that that is a bad thing. Well, it’s not really a bad thing—there’s nothing really wrong with it. But what it does do, is it avoids developing the muscles that will stabilize the shoulder girdle on its own, rather than using the elbows to help hold you up. So that’s kind of why I lean in that direction. I’m always trying to encourage people to develop the muscular patterns that support the postures that they are trying to do and not use external things.

You know, it’s like straps. Straps are great. You can learn things from them. They can support you. But they tend to support you rather than you finding your own muscular effort that creates that support. You know it might be that you hug your elbows into your ribs in chaturanga for a small period of time. And then you start to let them have a little bit of space from your ribcage as you develop strength. That would be an effective use of it.

Shoulder joint in chaturanga

The other part of your question is related to external rotation of the shoulder joint. I’m having a hard time following that. It could be the lowering into chaturanga maybe. Or it could be the shoulder blade squeezing thing. So I’m not sure how to answer that part of your question. It depends on what it is referring to.

I’ll just take it back for one moment. Certainly, your shoulder joint changes as you lower down. But it’s more of an extension than an external rotation. So if it is shoulder blades going back, your shoulder blades go back because of position and gravity. So technically, from my point of view as an anatomist, what you’re doing is you’re resisting that movement even though you’re allowing it to happen. That’s what we call an isotonic eccentric contraction. Go back to the video. It’s all tied to serratus. For those of you who haven’t seen the video that Scott’s talking about, (I’m assuming this is the one), go back and find my other chaturanga videos. Serratus is critical to stabilizing the shoulder girdle in chaturanga, which is probably how we ended up here.

As for answering other people’s opinions about how you should do things, I’m not a fan of it. I didn’t see the video. I don’t know why. They might have a really good reason. See what works in your body and stick with that Scott. Alright? Great! Anybody else, if you’ve got a question you know where to go. Go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.

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