3 Steps to Chaturanga

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2 Weeks to Chaturanga Challenge

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If there is one pose that I see students of all levels doing incorrectly, it is chaturanga dandasna. It is a very difficult pose, if you are not in proper alignment. Once you achieve this, though, it becomes much easier.


3 Steps to Chaturanga Dandasana

1. Begin in Plank Pose, inhaling

2. Pitch forward on the tips of your toes to bring your shoulders forward of your wrists.

3.  Exhaling: Bend the elbows, keeping them drawn in close to the body, lowering slowly until you come halfway down.

Mistakes to Avoid

1. Poor Plank Form

Many of the problems that people have in chaturanga actually come from problems they have in plank. You cannot do Chaturanga correctly if your plank is in poor form, so fix your plank first.

2. Poor Not Stacking the Elbows Over the Wrists

Bone stacking helps you avoid joint injury. If your elbow isn’t directly over your wrist, you are not bone stacking.

3. Sinking in the hips while you are lowering down in chaturanga

Keep the body in one straight line from crown of the head to the feet. Engage the abs and lift the hips (but not too high, that’s “cheating” and not going to build any muscle).

4. Piking your hips as you lower down

This is a little bit a cheater’s chaturanga. Again, you want your whole body aligned from the top of the head to the feet. Allow the hips to settle a little lower if you usually pike the hips.

5. Allowing the shoulders to be lower than the elbows.

This is a sure-fire way to injure both shoulders and elbows over time if you continue to do this. (This is similar to #4, but notice that the hips are not piked here.)

6. Avoid "Slithering Through"

When you “slither,” your body to comes all the way to the floor and then you pull yourself through between the shoulders to move into the next pose (i.e. cobra, baby cobra, upward dog). This is a big no-no.

Performing chaturanga in this way is sure to damage your shoulders and your elbows over time. In order to “slither through,” the lowering action occurs with your elbows far behind your wrists, putting stress on these two joints.

How to Modify Chaturanga

Chaturanga is a difficult pose for beginners (even some seasoned yogis have trouble with this too!).  This is how you can modify Chaturanga so that you can build your upper body strength and work your way up to the full expression of the pose.

Bring the Knees Down

Begin in plank. Keeping the alignment of your back and hips, lower the knees down to the floor. Lean forward from the knees, bringing the shoulders beyond the wrists. Keeping the
elbows drawn inward, bend halfway down until the upper arm is parallel to the floor.

2 Weeks to Chaturanga Challenge

Building Strength with Modified Chaturanga

It’s great to use the knees-down version in your regular practice. However, if you want to speed up the process of getting to full Chaturanga, here is a short daily practice you can do that will get your upper body into Chaturanga shape in as little as 2 weeks! It will literally only take a minute or two, a few times a day!

Phase 1: Hold Modified Chaturanga

This 5-day phase is about increasing the length of time you can hold the pose.

Phase 2: Slow Down the Lowering Action

A great way to build muscle strength is in slowing down the eccentric phase of a motion, in this case lowering to the floor, so on days 6-10, you’ll work on slowing down the lowering phase.

During this phase, I suggest avoiding the hold at the bottom in order not to fatigue the muscles too much.

Phase 3: Slowly Lower Down and Hold

On Days 11-15, you’ll work on combining your new strengths: slowly lower and hold. Every couple of days you can increase the length of time it takes to lower down as well as the number of breaths you can
hold the pose.

Once you can do this, your upper body will be strong enough to
do the full expression of chaturanga dandasana.

*Includes a handy chart for you to keep track of your progress!*

How to Do Chaturanga Plus a 2 week challenge to help you increase your upper body strength for Chaturanga. Printable progress tracker!


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