Ever heard your yoga teacher call out “chaturanga” and wonder if you’re doing it correctly? We feel you. Chaturanga Dandasana – or four-limbed staff pose – is the one yoga pose yogis love to hate. Most of us do it incorrectly or half-heartedly for years before finding the light.
Because this is such a physically and emotionally challenging pose, there’s a tendency to rush through it to get it over with. But a lack of attention is perhaps the biggest problem. While chaturanga can be a great way to tone your arms and core, your alignment needs to be spot on. Otherwise, you’ll risk shoulder or back injury.
The Benefits of Chaturanga:
Why do we put ourselves through this tough pose? There are several reasons why yoga instructors sprinkle chaturanga dandasana throughout their classes. Here are some of my favorite reasons for using chaturanga to transition between your yoga sequences.
- It makes your wrists stronger and more flexible.
- It builds muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms.
- It tones and stretches your core muscles.
- Add all of this together and it’s a great preparatory pose for arm balances and inversions
The upper-body and lower-belly strength you acquire by practicing chaturanga translates wonderfully into the power and core consciousness you need for arm balances like crow pose and side plank.
Where Most of Us Go Wrong:
It’s challenging to know when you are doing your chaturanga correctly. And since it’s a pose of repetition, it can lead to injury when performed incorrectly over and over again. Here are a couple ways even the best of us mess up our chaturangas sometimes.
- Our hands are too close to our shoulders, causing our elbows to bend further than 90 degrees.
- Our bodies either collapse to the ground with a saggy back or we stick our butt out toward the ceiling putting too much pressure on our shoulders.
- Our elbows fall outward instead of hugging our core.
- We lazily move through chaturanga, barely bending at the elbow before quickly rushing into upward dog.
How to Make Chaturanga More Accessible:
One option is to practice the pose with your knees on the floor – there’s no shame in this. It will help you build strength to lower down in one line. Closely monitor your elbow alignment. Next, recognize how deep you go as you lower yourself toward the floor, catching yourself before you begin to sag. Finally, share the strength of the pose between your upper and lower body so that your legs can ease the burden.