Focus on…Chaturanga Dandasana

I’ve long seen students practicing a variety of chaturangas where their alignment is not optimal to prevent an injury surfacing over time.
As a result, and in an effort to deepen our understanding of this pose, the focus this month is on Chaturanga Dandasana, which is a deceptively hard pose to do, and can place strain on the wrists and elbows.
Let’s take a closer look..

Focus of Chaturanga Dandasana

  • Also known as Four-Limb Staff Pose & Low Plank.
  • Chaturanga is typically performed from a Forward Fold (Uttanasana).
  • Chaturanga builds strength in the pectoralis major, shoulders, arms & wrists.
  • Chaturanga firms up the abdomen.

Joint Positions

  • Elbows stop at a 90 degree angle when lowering into Chaturanga.
  • The entire trunk of the body, legs and cervical spine elongates.

Setting it up

  1. Begin to relax the body to lower into Chaturanga [Typically from a High Plank position]. When you feel that your elbows have reached a 90 degree angle, activate the pectoralis major to hold the upper body off the floor. A great cue for this [Ray Long – Anatomy for Vinyasa Flow and Standing Poses], is to try squeeze the elbows towards one another.
  2. Try to be aware of broadening through the chest in order to activate the serratus anterior to stabilize the shoulder blades. NOTE: The serratus anterior is a VERY important muscle that we use to draw the scapulae forward in order to activate the cobra hood or shoulder girdle in any arm balances and inversions.
  3. Use the triceps to support the elbows and keep them at a 90 degree angle. Engage the quads to lift the kneecaps.
  4. To stop the body sagging, engage the abdominals and psoas to maintain the body as a plank and gently try to squeeze the legs together.
  5. Attempt to slide the hands forward while you try to press the feet backward. The resulting force stabilizes the shoulders, upper extremities and ankles. This helps create a bandha to stabilize the entire pose.

Watch for…

  • Straining the elbows! There is a reason why teachers cue “Inhale forward”; If you attempt to lower from a high plank to low plank with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, when you reach a 90 degree angle with the elbows, they will be behind the wrists, thus causing strain in the elbows. When the elbows are at 90 degrees, the elbows should be directly over the wrists.
  • Keeping the core extremely engaged. If the belly starts sagging, it may be time to modify with the knees to the mat.
  • Broadening through the chest as you roll the shoulders back and down the spine, crown of the head reaching forward.
  • If you’re still building strength in the arms, back and legs, release your knees to the floor when flowing through High to Low Plank Chaturanga Dandasana.

Hopefully, this information will help you fine tune your Chaturanga and keep you injury free. Remember that you can always cut down or skip Chaturanga and flow into Downward Facing Dog instead.

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