8 Steps to a Better Yoga Push-Up

Yoga Pose for Athletes: Chaturanga

A Better Push-Up Experience

Our first encounter with the infamous “push-up” is usually right before we’re strong enough to do a push-up. Our budding egos beating down any reasonable thought to put the knees on the floor, teeth clenched, elbows bowed out and on the verge of buckling beneath us, images of social ridicule swirling around us. This is how we learn to do a push-up — thanks gym class!

With push-ups being one of the first exercises we learn, alignment and approaches to its yoga pose cousin, chaturanga, can be pretty sketchy. It takes some rewiring to internalize the subtleties of the pose and it’s quite possible that you learned push-ups under less-than-ideal circumstances. So, Let’s clear a few things up:

8 Steps to a Better Yoga Push-Up

  1. Remember, it’s a pose. It’s tempting to rush through it and never truly stick it, though holding steady for at least one breath is the best way to build focus and power over time.
  2. Elbows over wrists. Chaturanga usually comes after plank pose in a flow yoga class. Before lowering from plank to chaturanga, simply shift your body forward, bringing the shoulders over your fingernails to keep the elbows hovering (proudly) over the wrists.
  3. Elbows in and hugging your side waist. As much as our 10-year-old self loved to bow the elbows out, it’s crucial to keep them in the same plane as your shoulders and wrists to engage the muscles, not our joints and ligaments.
  4. Shoulders lower to elbow height at maximum. When the shoulders start to dip below the elbows, excess pressure builds up in the shoulder joint and, done repetitively over time, can cause wear and tear.
  5. Don’t overdo it. Though it may seem mandatory at times, you always have the option to skip chaturanga, especially if you’re not able to do it with technique.
  6. But, also, do it. Even though you have a permission slip to skip chaturanga, you’re missing out on major strength gains if you’re constantly avoiding it.
  7. Engage your core by drawing your sternum and pubic bone towards each other. The pose doesn’t look any different but will be far more supported and will feel utterly intense (in a good way).
  8. Bring your knees to the floor before lowering from plank to chaturanga. A nice middle ground between doing a full chaturanga and not doing it at all. Also gives you more control over your ego.

Insider Note

Sun salutations are the most common warm-up in yoga, and each pattern generally takes you from plank to chaturanga to up-dog to down dog.

If I’m really feeling good in a class, I’ll almost always add in a second chaturanga after upward-facing dog, and I’ll never double up if I’m not feeling strong enough to do it with alignment and focus.

This is a great way to build up serious heat in the moment and serious strength over time. Don’t let anyone shame you into taking or not taking a second chaturanga in that space between up- and down-dog — always remember that doing your practice in a room full of people doesn’t make your choices anything other than personal.

Practice Your Yoga Push-Up

If you’re looking to practice your chaturanga (as well as a challenge), give this intense little class a try.

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

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About the Author:

Joe is the Founder of Icewater Yoga. Fascinated by the intersection of yoga and sport, his goal is to help athletes develop a consistent yoga practice. He lives in Claremont, CA with his wife, Jill.