There are many posts out there about how to properly do four-limbed staff pose, AKA chaturanga dandasana.
And yet, many students are still performing this crucial pose incorrectly, putting themselves at risk for rotator cuff injury. Perhaps the riskiest thing about this pose is that you won't suddenly experience pain saying, "Stop! This move doesn't feel right!" but rather you will likely develop a dull pain over time and question all of your poses involving the shoulders.
As someone who consistently has to remind myself not to dump into the shoulders, I wanted to demonstrate my bad habit and my correct form. These are similar from the outside, but your body will be much safer in the correct form.
NOTE: Your body might be structured differently than mine, so always pay attention to what you're feeling. Asana/postures can be uncomfortable because we are stretching or strengthening, but you shouldn't feel pain. See my disclaimer as well in terms of advice.
In this form, the first thing you see, and the primary issue, is that my shoulders are dipping below my elbows. People often 'dive' into chaturanga and emerge in upward facing dog, using this as a flowing transition. That motion can be achieved using the correct form, but it doesn't feel as dramatic. By using this as a transition, the rotator cuff muscles are in danger. Although pain is not often felt, over time the motion can cause wear and tear, possibly leading to injury. Another thing you see is that I'm sticking my pelvis up into the air. By doing this, I'm not engaging my core as much, and relying on my back muscles, dumping into my shoulders, and not engaging the lower body enough.
Here you can see my shoulders are in a much safer position. Crown of the head is drawing forward and heels are over the toes. Depending on your structure, your hips may appear a little lower. I could possibly tuck my pelvis under a little bit more to engage the abdominals further (it's something that I'm working on!) but overall this will keep your rotator cuff muscles safe, and evenly distribute weight throughout the body. As always, keep the fingers pressing into the mat to support your wrists!
Have you fallen victim to this habit? Is there a pose you struggle with? Let me know in the comments!