Yoga 101: Chaturanga Dandasana, Four Limb Staff
Use a little common sense and less ego when practicing yoga pushups.
In today’s vinyasa style yoga classes, most transitions between asanas will use forms of Chaturanga Dandasana (Chaturanga, for short) to transition between side and between postures.
These yoga pushups are added to increase strength in the upper body and create a flow into various postures. Because it is not an easy posture to master, most of us need to modify this pose when we first begin our yoga practice.
Honestly, many yogi’s and yoginis need to revisit this asana.
Since the posture is very demanding, even the most seasoned practitioners will often rush to get through this posture to the next posture.
Often used to transition to Updog, Chaturanga Dandasana should have truth and integrity; this can be achieved by refining your alignment and listening to your body.
One way to test your integrity is to hold the position and even rise back up to plank posture. If you shake and have trouble with these yoga pushups, you risk hurting shoulders, wrists, and elbows, so take your time.
Consider building up the strength needed to accomplish this vinyasa style by modifying. I tell my students, “no collapse-uranga.” The flow between postures is not worth injury. Pushing yourself beyond your limits can lead to pain, injury and even disease.
Strength is something that we build over time. There is no need to rush through this masterful posture.
On the plus side, Chaturangas will help you gain strength, stability, and build stamina in the entire body. It is very much in the same family as our previous Yoga 101: Staff Pose Helps Stabilize the Whole Body.
Please be cleared by your wellness professional or doctor before beginning any new activity.
I suggested this really nice warm up. We will be covering the sun salutations later this month; until then, this will prepare you for Chaturanga Dandasana.
- Start in Tadasana. Find your feet and close your eyes. Begin your Pranayama.
- Inhale deeply and bring your arms up. Exhale fold forward into Uttanasana. Stay here for a few breaths. Draw your belly inward towards the spine.
- As you exhale, place your hands down flat under your shoulders and step back into Down-Dog. Stay here for a few breaths.
- Inhale slowly and bring your knees down into Table. Flowing from cat/cow inhale into cow and exhale into Cat. Give yourself a few rounds.
- Rest in Childs posture and connect with your belly and prepare your mind to stay present within the ebb and flow of your pranayama.
- Start in Table. Align your head with your spine. Distribute the weight through both hands spreading your fingers under your shoulders.
- The eyes of the elbows point toward your thumbs as the upper arms draw away from the center to stabilize and protect your shoulder joint. This should also prevent shoulder blades from winging out. Imagine them pressing into your back and broadening.
- Pay extra attention to pressing down and engaging the webbing of your thumb and index finger, and every knuckle on every finger. In yoga when our hands touch the earth, it teaches us to use them like we do our feet. Eventually our hands learn how to utilize them as a foundation.
- Step your feet back, lengthening both legs. Although we tend to focus more on the weight in the arms and shoulders, the legs also share the work of the posture. Continue to lengthen your sternum forward as you draw your tailbone back. This will help you access the power of your legs.
- Engage your legs like you would in Tadasana. As you press your heels back, engage your knees, pull your belly up and in. Pretend you have a wall behind your heels.
- Keep your head in line with horizon and bend your elbows so that they brush the side of your body as you begin your descent down toward the earth. At this point your elbows will be along the side of your body, not above it. Avoid dropping your chin and sticking your bottom up in the air.
- If this becomes too intense, bring your knees down to protect your shoulder and wrists.
- You can bring your forearms down and take a sphinx pose as a gentle backbend instead of up-dog. Then find table and start all over again.
Don’t rush through this pose, and you and your body will find it very satisfying. The strength gained in this posture is much deeper than the physical. It challenges your ego and in return helps strengthen your body mind connection.
Have a great Week!