Chaturanga Dandasana (pronounced chah-tuur-ANGH-uh dahn-DAHS-uh-nuh) is a common yoga pose, which translates to “four limbed staff pose,” and is especially present in flow-based yoga practices, such as vinyasa, ashtanga, and power yoga.
It’s a sort of push-up, or low plank move, and when done correctly is a great workout for your abs, low-back, arms, shoulders – basically a full body strengthening and toning pose. When done incorrectly though, chaturanga can really shred your shoulders, and not in the “wow, what a good workout” way.
How To Do Chaturanga:
- Begin in plank pose. Keeping your back flat and your elbows tight to your ribs and directly over your wrists, slowly lower your body to hover a few inches from the floor,
- Core engaged, thighs pushing up, open through your chest, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows.
- Push your body forward, rolling onto your toes.
- Stop when your arms form a 90-degree angle, hugging all of your muscles into the midline of your body.
From there you could push back up into high plank, or flow forward into an upward facing dog. You could always do this pose on your knees (called a half-chaturanga), or with a block under your chest, until you get the alignment correct.
Now here’s where people can get themselves into trouble: the shoulders. In a weight-bearing pose like chaturanga, the shoulders need to be positioned properly to avoid putting stress on the soft tissue of the shoulders. Make sure that when you do the pose, your shoulders remain stable – that they don’t lift off your back and “wing” out, or in the opposite direction, round forward to the floor. When you open up your chest, try to feel what your shoulder blades are doing in response. They should be moving away from each other rather than sagging towards the middle of your back, but remaining in line with your elbows. Basically, from head to toe you want your body to be a completely straight line.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when yoga instructors don’t inform you of possible injuries you can get, and how to avoid them. I absolutely love when the instructor comes around and corrects alignment, giving adjustments. Yoga should be about healing other injuries, not incurring more – and yoga related injuries are very preventable. If you’re new to yoga, or even if you’re a long-time yogi, the next time you hit your mat, try to slow your chaturanga down, making sure you’re properly aligned.