How To Chaturanga Like A Pro

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What on earth is a chaturanga I hear you cry.

Good question! Even if you dabble in yoga you may never have heard of it.

Chaturanga Dandasana (to give it it’s full name) is a sanskrit word, which translates directly to four-limbed staff pose.

It is that thing you flow past on your way between downward dog, and cobra…. didn’t catch it?

There it is again in your Sun Salutation….numerous times!

Okay let’s break it down. Chaturanga is the yoga plank or push up. It occurs many times throughout asana flows, but it is not easy…and that is why people (me included) often skip straight past it, get to over with as quickly as possible and don’t stop to think about alignment, positioning and breathing.

Most of the time it is over in a matter of moments, and you can go ahead and busy your mind with the next pose. I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t overlook this pose! It deserves some respect 😉 Here’s why….

Why Should You Care About Doing The Chaturanga?

chaturanga directions
Chaturanga Directions

It is a foundational pose that is found in many flow sequences . It helps practitioners to find their centre, to activate the legs in arm poses and is a fantastic preparation for inversions and arm balances.

The pose requires significant strength in the arms, shoulders and abdominal muscles. It is for this reason that half-hearted chaturangas are not acceptable…because they could actually cause harm.

As Jillian Turecki, Senior Yoga Instructor at Kula Yoga Project in New York City says;

It’s a problem I see across the board from beginners to seasoned practitioners, and you can develop really bad habits that lead to injury.

Repeating a pose again and again over time can result in injuries – and this is one pose that you will be repeating! Overtaxing the joints, particularly the muscle can cause real damage to your ball and socket joints.

When performing this pose incorrectly, Dr. Adam Cohen, Associate Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital Systems, orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist says:

You’re putting more stress on all the soft tissue in your shoulder. This can compress your shoulder joint and can cause impingement syndrome, a common shoulder injury, and even rotator cuff damage.

Seriously, you don’t want that!

In order to prevent injury you must start to be more aware of your alignment as you perform this asana. In a moment we will go through the complete process for you, and always be sure to listen to your body as you go. Yoga is not a competitive discipline, so swallow your ego and modify if you need to!

Baron Baptise, author of Journey Into Power tells you just how important this is:

“A lot of students try to sneak their way past Low Push-Up and move directly from High Push-Up to the next pose, which is Upward Facing Dog, but I strongly encourage you not to do this. Find ways to work within the pose. Modify, dilute, research, but don’t run or avoid the work. Challenge yourself sensitively and your weakness will soon turn to strength.”

Why Is Chaturanga So Great?

There are a great many benefits to be gained from learning to perform this yoga plank correctly.

  • It develops arm, shoulder, and leg muscles strength
  • It encourages core stability
  • Prepares the body for difficult poses such as inversions and arm balances
  • Increases stamina
  • Calms the mind and steadies the breath

So How Should You Start Out?

First and foremost, take the time to build your strength! Practice holding the plank position, until you can do so comfortably for 10 seconds. As you practice keep in mind that your shoulders should be lined up over your wrists. Your head should stay in line with your spine and your hips should not dip! Activate your core and pull your belly button towards to spine.

If you find that your wrists become tired or painful then try shifting your weight towards your finger tips. Don’t push it too much, stop when you need to and gradually build up your stamina.

How To Chaturanga Like A Pro

Okay, I think you have read enough! Let’s not delay any longer. Check out this great, straightforward video which explains how to chaturanga brillantly.

Okay – let’s go through the steps:

  1. Begin in plank pose.
  2. Shift your weight forwards, so that your shoulders are ahead of your wrists.
  3. Lower yourself in a controlled manner – while being up on the balls of your feet.
  4. Push the soles of your feet backwards and engage your quadriceps (wake up your legs!).
  5. Make sure that your elbows are bending at a 90 degree angle.
  6. Keep your elbows tucked in neatly to your sides – no chicken wings here please
  7. Continue to lower slowly towards to floor – keeping your core engaged and your body straight.
  8. Gaze at the floor, slightly ahead of you
  9. When your shoulders come into line with your elbows, hold the pose
  10. While you are in the pose consciously stretch through your heels, sternum and crown.
  11. You can hold for a brief moment, or even up to 30 seconds!
  12. Finish off by lowering fully to the floor, or continue your flow sequence.

What To Avoid!

what not to do chaturanga
What Not To Do – Chaturanga

There are a few things to watch out for as you chaturanga, and this video explains them beautifully. I particularly love the ‘Jackie Chan’ tip!

So, here are some common chaturanga mistakes to avoid!

  • Don’t hug your shoulders up to your ears! (Remember to Jackie Chan!)
  • Don’t stick your butt into the air – recruit a friend to be on butt watch 😉
  • Don’t let your shoulders fall lower than your elbows
  • Don’t sag your body – keep your core strong
  • Don’t dip your hips – maintain a strong line
  • Don’t let your head drop – faze forwards, slightly ahead of you on the floor

Summary

Form is of utmost importance in this pose – so always be aware of your positioning, alignment and breathing throughout. Remember to modify if you need to, as you will still be working all of the same muscles as with the full pose, you will just be getting a break from supporting your body weight.

Chaturanga is a tricky asana, but certainly worth the effort in getting in right!

What do you think? Do you like to chaturanga? We would love to hear from you!

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