Four-Limbed Staff Pose - Chaturanga Dandasana

Chaturanga Dandasana
Chaturanga Dandasana. Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Arm balance

Benefits: Strengthens the arms and core. Good preparation for more challenging arm balances.

Chaturanga is categorized as an arm balance because your arms bear most of your weight. It's like a push-up, but with the elbows hugged in toward the body, and as such is a great arm strengthener. It is part of the Sun Salutation vinyasa sequence of poses. It takes a fair amount of strength to do this pose correctly, so don't be in a rush to add it to your practice if you're not ready, especially since you open yourself up to shoulder wear and tear if your alignment is off.

 

Instructions:

1. From plank position, shift your weight a little bit forward into the balls of your feet. This brings your shoulders slightly in front of your wrists, which is going to be a better position for them when you lower down. 

2. Bend the arms straight back, keeping your elbows hugging into your sides as you lower down toward the floor. Keep in mind that this is different from a push-up, in which your elbows can go out to either side.

3. Stop when your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Going lower does not make your pose better. Don't let your shoulders dip below the level of your elbows. Hug your upper arms into the sides of your body,

4. Keep your whole body very straight, just like it was in your plank.

5. Roll over the toes to come into upward facing dog. You can also flip your feet one at a time if that feels better.

Beginners Tips:

Drop your knees to the floor before bending your elbows until you build enough strength to support your whole body with the arms.

Practicing knees, chest and chin is another great alternative that helps you get stronger.

When you start to get tired, your alignment is more likely to go off. Be aware of this and skip vinyasas or switch to one of the prep versions mentioned above if there are a lot of chaturangas in your class. 

Advanced Variations:

In flow classes, it's quite common to see chaturanga become a quick transitional posture.

If you've been practicing it for a while, challenge yourself to hold the pose for a breath before coming forward into upward facing dog.

To build more arm strength, you can push back into a plank instead of doing upward dog.

If you feel comfortable in one-legged plank, try moving into chaturanga while keeping your leg lifted. Bend your knee and lift your foot toward your head for a chaturanga scorpion.

Since the danger to your shoulders is cumulative, be aware of your alignment and skip vinyasas if you start to get tired. 

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