Four-limbed Staff Pose or Chaturanga Dandasana
Chaturanga Dandasana is hard. And unfortunately, because it is hard, it is done incorrectly in a lot of yoga classes. In a group class, especially one that flows several poses together, it is easy to ‘feel’ as if we are going through the motions but we are actually just skipping over this challenging pose. I did Chaturanga wrong for years because I did not have the muscular strength nor did I have the awareness of what muscles to activate and when.
The transition to Chaturanga usually happens starting in Down Dog (Adho Muka Svanasana) and gliding your weight forward to Plank (Phalakasana), lowering down to Chaturanga on the exhale and usually Updog or another pose follows. (See article, 'A beginner's guide to a familiar, yet hard, yoga sequence of poses')
(please note: In Ashtanga Yoga, one often enters Chaturanga by jumping back from forward fold.)
Notice in this picture:
· Elbows are pointing behind
· Back is flat
· Arm bend is close to 90 degrees
· Feet are still positioned like they were in plank
· Legs are raised off the floor – you are hovering.
· Gaze is to floor – Spine is in neutral alingment
What not to do:
· Drop hips when lowering down
· Concave/Sway of chest and lower back
· Elbows out to sides
What is a good modification?
Decrease the load/weight by putting your knees down.
Focus on engaging your core and lowering your body from your knees as a unit (ie. don’t let your hips drop and back sway). Keep your arms in and elbows pointing behind in and bend your arms up to 90 degrees.
Your torso, from your pelvis to chest is still hovering off the floor.
Another suggestion: to build up strength, if you do any weight training on other days of the week, include chest press, triceps, and back strengthening in your routine.
As always, you are in direct communication with your body, so if it is talking to (screaming at) you, please listen to it. Similar to plank, I would suggest that if you are experiencing anything listed below, please focus on healing yourself first before attempting Four-limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana):
· Lower back issues (pain, disc herniation and/or bulging)
· Diastasis Recti
· Herniation (Umbilical is most common)
· Pelvic Floor issues (pain, incontinency, pelvic organ prolapse etc..)
· Recently postpartum
Suggested readings: “Doing Plank Correctly”, “Is Cobra a modification to Upward Facing Dog? Nope!' and “A beginner’s guide to a familiar, yet hard, yoga sequence of poses'