18 May How To Nail Your Chaturanga In No Time
My all-time favourite yoga pose is Chaturanga Dandasana! Yeah right. Said no yogi ever! One pose – so many emotions. Although probably one of the most cued poses in a vinyasa yoga class, no one takes that pause to enjoy it. How do you feel about your chaturanga, yogis? It’s a simple but oh so strong pose. A pose that we do so many times but hardly anyone ever explains it properly. Let’s change that and take a closer look at this all-time favourite yoga pose and break it down. Plus, we will show you a few simple tricks on how to improve it along the way. You’ll be nailing your chaturangas in no time.
Did you know that Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) prepares you for arm balances, inversions, and backends? When done correctly, it strengthens your arms and legs, tones the abdominals, and builds healthy shoulders. Alright, we’re all up for that. AND when done with poor alignment, it can lead to injuries. But first, let’s have a dive into what Chaturanga actually is (instead of what we think it is). Here we go.
What is Chaturanga Dandasana?
Chaturanga Dandasana is not the same thing as Plank Pose. It’s also not a push-up, nor is it Upward Facing Dog. Your Updog is a pose that commonly follows Chaturanga. The challenge with assuming Chaturanga and Up Dog go hand-in-hand is that it often leads to a “swoopy movement” that is terrible for the health of your shoulders. Chaturanga is that sweet little pose in between your plank and your Updog. That pose we pause in for a little bit and then move on.
And yes, you read right, PAUSE in your chaturanga. Let’s break down Chaturanga and how to find stellar alignment. Then we’ll tell you how to move from Chaturanga into Up Dog — all safe and swift-like. Oh yes!
Chaturanga Dandasana Aligment 101
As mentioned earlier already, a strong plank pose is THE foundation for a strong Chaturanga. There is no way around it. Remember those planking challenges? They would come in handy right now. Here we go:
- Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders. Your feet are hip-width distance apart.
- Now, press your hands into the mat, and feel the space between your shoulders puff up like a little muffin top. Hug your thumbs to the midline, like you are squeezing a loved one. Can you feel your chest muscles turning on?
- Your legs are playing a significant role here, so activate them. Press through the heels and lift your thighs, without sticking your bum up. Squeeze your inner thighs together and slightly rotate them up towards the sky. Let go of your ego and drop your knees if this is too strong.
- Pull your belly button to your spine to activate your core.
- With this core engagement, lengthen your tailbone down the back of your legs, toward your heels.
- To avoid excessive doming in the upper back, lengthen your heart forward.
- Extend the crown of your head forward.
- Gaze at the horizon of your yoga mat. Not your feet or way out in front of you. You want a long neck.
Done! Yes, a lot is going on in plank. And it’s strong, but done correctly it feels less challenging. Your whole body pitches in, and you are not dumping all your weight into your shoulders and just hanging in there. And it’s about to get better. We will finally chaturanga – oh yeah!
- From your Plank Pose, shift slightly forwards and bend your elbows straight back then lower your body halfway down.
- As you lower, keep your elbows hugged to your side bodies. No splaying the elbows out, yogis! It’s not a push-up!
- Remember to drop to your knees if this is too strong. Slowly build your strength and, when your body is ready for it, lift your knees and off you go. Just note, that when you lower your knees, that they are situated behind your hips, not directly under. But maintain the lifted, engaged feeling in your lower belly.
- Now, what’s going on your upper chest? Is your core still active? Sometimes we disengage when we lower, which results in the shoulder blades collapsing on the back body and the chin sliding forward — creating the “turtle” effect. Keep your core engaged. And keep pressing your hands into your mat. Thumbs hug into the midline.
- Make sure that you do not lower down past your shoulder-line. Your elbows should never be higher than your shoulders. At most, they will be ideally in line, creating a 90-degree angle inside the elbows.
- Don’t forget about your legs! Keep your legs engaged throughout. Or drop your ego and drop to your knees.
Et voila, here you have your chaturanga dandasana. Again a lot going on. And yes, it’s strong. But so good when done correctly. Let’s look at a few tricks on how you can improve your Chaturangas.
Tricks to improve your Chaturanga.
As we’ve indicated, Chaturanga is a journey. It’s not easy. However, there are some tricks you can use with props to help your body memorise what “good” Chaturanga alignment feels like. It will help you engage all the right muscles. No cheating here. Now we’re talking.
Use a block.
You can put a yoga block between your inner thighs and squeeze it – like you mean it. The block will help your legs stay engaged while your upper body lowers. No dropping the block, yogi! You can already start using your block when you set up your plank.
Another good trick is to place two blocks underneath your shoulders. Usually on the medium setting. These blocks will show your body how low you need to lower down. It prevents your shoulders from passing the elbow-line. Excellent. Don’t forget to engage all your whole body though. Do you feel the burn in your triceps? Good. #sorrynotsorry
Use a strap.
You’ll love this one. Loop the strap around your upper arms, just above your elbow crease. When you put your elbows to your sides, the strap should fit snuggly. Then, find your Plank Pose. You’ll notice a bit of a hug around the arms from the strap. That’s good: it will prevent your elbows from splaying out too much as you lower down. The #1 alignment slip for new Chaturanga-ers.
As you lower, you’ll feel the strap stop and support your chest at about the perfect depth for Chaturanga. Like magic! The strap’ll help you lock-in your alignment. Splaying elbows is so yesterday!
You got this, yogis!
Right, as already mentioned, these Chatrunagas are a piece of work. And yes, you may have to drop to your knees – hey, everyone is doing it, so drop your ego and just do it. Working slowly but steadily to full strength will give you so much more in the end. No splaying out elbows and no turtles. And don’t forget about your core. Rule of thumb, the more engaged your whole body is, the lighter you are. And the easier it will be. Trust us! And who knows, Chaturanga will become your new favourite pose over time? Let’s ponder on that one though, shall we? But did you know, that savasana is the most difficult yoga pose? Who’d have thought? If that sounds like a pose you are struggling with, find out why over here.
Asana Lab: Chaturanga Dandasana
Need a little visual helping hand? Not a problem. Head over to Power Living‘s online yoga studio, yogaholics, and let Duncan Peak guide you through a step by step Chaturanga Dandasana video tutorial. He will guide you through a correct aligned vinyasa flow—all the juicy alignment tips from Downward Dog to Updog. You will be nailing your vinyasa’s in no time. And while we have you here, why not explore other tricky poses, like Crow Pose or Wheel Pose as well? That’s the beauty of online yoga, and you can not only pick and choose from various yoga flows and guided meditations but also pick a tricky or new to you pose and let our teachers guide you through them step by step. Watch these tutorials as many times as you like. It’s like a private yoga class in your living room. So you can safely expand your practice. How good is that? Roll out your mats and get ready to flow.
What’s your new favourite yoga pose? Chaturanga Dandasana, of course!
Written by Winnie Sands