Tag Archives: shoulder stand

Chatuse Padasana: four feet firmly on the foundation

Chatuse Padasana, or four footed pose, has two distinct functions. First it is a universally  accessible and easy-to-do backbend. You will get all the backbend benefits without all the fear and mental roadblocks you’ll find in other back bending asanas. But the second function and the real magic of this pose is that it introduces the proper shoulder actions in Salmaba Sarvangasana (supported all body pose, or shoulder stand).  It also begins to introduce the Jalandara Bandha sternum-to-chin action that will be found in more complex poses later. I teach this to all of my basic students to get them to work towards shoulder stand.

First, you will need a sticky mat and a strap:

Chatuse padasana 1

Next, roll the spine flat onto the floor using the same instructions from my Savasana post. Please note the head is on the slippery floor and the shoulders are on the sticky mat. This is deliberate.

Chatuse padasana 2

Raise the feet and place the strap over the front of the shins.

Chatuse padasana 3

Then place the feet back on the floor with the heels right in front of the buttock bones with the toes pointed slightly inward.

Chatuse padasana 4

For those with knee issues, move the feet further away from the buttocks.

Chatuse padasana 5

Keeping the feet in place, lift the hips up slightly

Chatuse padasana 6

Shift the weight to the left side, and pull firmly on the right strap. Then externally rotate the right upper arm toward the floor. Notice how my chest puffs up when I do this. Then repeat on the other side. This is the important shoulder work I referred to earlier.

Chatuse padasana 8

Now you are ready for launch. The “four feet” are the upper arms and feet creating a platform to blast the hips into space. Inhale, then push shins toward the armpits and lift up the hips toward the ceiling. Try to move both sides of the body up symmetrically, like an elevator going up a floor.  Also move the sternum toward the chin. Pull firmly on the straps. Hold for a few breaths (and don’t hold your breath)!

Chatuse padasana 9

Exhale and lower the buttocks back to the floor. Repeat several times. The more you do, the better your mood will get! Endorphins are released in backbends creating a euphoria in the mind of the practitioner. Just don’t get too caught up in it.

Chatuse padasana 10

It is also advisable to do a spine neutralizing pose like a wide downward dog after backbends to de-contract the back muscles. For a back bending sequences, see the “yoga sequences” button on my blog menu.

wide ams

 

Have a wonderful practice!

 

Shoulder Stand Done Right

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Salamba Sarvangasana (supported all body pose) or popularly known as shoulder stand is considered the “mother” of asanas. It has therapeutic benefit for every system in your body. That’s why it’s probably called “all body pose.”

If done incorrectly. it may cause damage to the cervical spine. I will attempt in a series of picture to illustrate the correct approach to this pose.

First the setup: you will need 4 blankets, a chair, a sticky mat, and a block. See below for the visual:

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Correct shoulder stand/halasana setup for beginners

On a sticky mat laid out flat, put the blankets at one end with the smooth edges facing the chair. Fold the sticky mat tail 2/3 over the blankets as seen in photo. Make sure the edges of the blankets are in one straight vertical plane. If you have the fringes out it will create unevenness in the base:

photo-14

Correct edges

photo-13

Incorrect edges

Lay on your back on top of the blankets and have your shoulder tops  1 to 1.5 inches (3-4 cm) from the edge of the blankets. 

Reach back and hold the bottom part of the legs of the chair, push the chair back until your arms are straight.

From this point NEVER TURN YOUR HEAD as you can damage the C7 part of your spine.

Pushing down with the elbows, swing your legs overhead until the feet reach the chair.

SS halasana

This is called Halasana (plow pose). Push the thighs up toward the ceiling until the legs are taut.

From here, straighten your arms behind you and hook your thumbs with the fingers pointed toward the ceiling, roll to the right side and tuck your left shoulder underneath. Then repeat right side. Do a few times until the skin of the shoulder is well underneath.

Support the back with the hands with the palm touching the flesh of the back (not cloth) and fingers facing toward the ceiling.

Keeping taut legs, take one leg up at a time until the ankles knees, hips and deltoids are in one vertical plane.

10-Salamba-Sarvangasana

At first just practice getting in and holding for one minute. Eventually you build your time up to five minutes.

To come out, KEEP YOUR LEGS TAUT, as you lower one leg down the chair at a time. If you allow the legs to go limp you will crash your feet on the chair. Then reach your hands to the chair, bend your knees and roll down.

Here is why you need blankets in this pose. This strap represents the angle of your spine with blankets. Notice there is gentle, gradual plane that is minimally weight bearing.photo-11

Now, here is your spine’s angle without blankets:SS 90

And then your pose will look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 3.10.32 PM

OUCH!!

Banana shaped!!

Or worse:

ss sans blanket

90 degree angle of the neck is bad news

You should not do this pose if you are menstruating (or any other pose where the pelvis is elevated). In ayurveda, which is the sister science to yoga, it is advised that one should not interrupt the direction of drainage from the body.

It would be highly advisable to find an Iyengar certified yoga teacher to instruct you to do this pose initially, than use this blog entry as a reminder.