Practice Notes: Push Up Elbows

My practice partner today felt pain in his elbows.  He has a long term strain injury akin to 'Tennis Elbow' from over-exertion during yoga.  As he worked on Chaturanga (Push Up) during this morning's daily practice, he felt a sharp pain down the back of the triceps and across the elbow joint nearing right angles.

Immediately, we decreased the intensity and moved him from toes to knees. Then we ran through a checklist, to see if he had:

  • 'Set' his shoulders (Shoulder Amsa Bandha)
    • Drawn the shoulder in and down
    • Drawn the outstretched arms together (adduction)
  • Activated the armpits and the side body when bending the arm (muscles of the Serratus Anterior and Latissimus Dorsi) to lock the elbows into the body
  • Gripped the mat firmly with the hands and fingers, as if making a fist but not being able to because of the floor (Wrist Mani Bandha)
  • Lowered to the right angle only, no further
  • Lowered his shoulders forward of the wrist rather than down to the wrist

Following this, we did forearm plank to work on torso strength.  Once we moved, pain free, through the preparation and technique, we let go of the theory and tried the more gentle variation of the pose a couple of times with natural breathing and good results.  We'll let you know how this matures in practice!

When something hurts, always back off.  If pain persists, see your doctor or physiotherapist.  Over-exertion and applying force through a joint without co-activation of supporting muscles (bandha) are often the culprits here.  It doesn't have to get too technical, just mindful awareness.   

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