One of the most popular Yoga poses, but also one of the hardest Yoga poses. If you go to a dynamic Yoga class, there is a big chance it includes Chaturanga Dandasana. However, to me, I think this pose is a really difficult one. It requires a lot, and EQUAL strength from both sides of the shoulder joint and elbow joint. More importantly, it requires activation of the muscles on the belly and on the legs: big muscle groups of the upper body and lower body to work together.
Yes, Chaturanga Dandasana is hard. Often in a Vinyasa flow, we don't hold Chaturanga for so long. It's a continuous movement like Plank, Chaturanga, Up Dog, Down Dog. We tend to do it quite in a hurry. However, you can feel how strong it is when you try to hold the pose. I'm knocked out after 5 breaths.
In modern Yoga, we have Plank as a preparation, or a substitution to Chaturanga. But Chaturanga makes everything from your shoulders to your toes work to hold your body in an ultimate anti-gravity Yoga pose.
As gravity makes everything go down, it's easier to go down, bend your elbows and lower your shoulders position in this pose, than to go UP. Why do I have to go UP, isn't it going down from Plank? Because you have to stop going down further, by a push-up action. It's like two opposite forces that are equal to keep you in a still pose.
Many people struggle with Chaturanga. Moreover, this pose is in almost every Vinyasa Yoga classes, but not all those classes have time to slow down and explain the pose. Therefore I suggest some ways you can use Yoga props to get a feeling of how Chaturanga is. With supporting props, you have all the time in the world to look and feel your own pose.
1. KNEES DOWN
Bring your knees down make Plank, Chaturanga, Side Plank and some other Plank-alike pose easier.
Keep your shoulders as high as, or higher than your elbows, and feel the up pushing force that helps you stay in this angle of elbow flexion.
2. Support your shoulders with BLOCKS
If you have a lot of blocks, like 6 of them, you can stack them up in 2 piles to support your shoulders. Keep your hands touching the behind of the blocks and right underneath your elbows. The height of the block towels should be as much as the length of your forearm. Now with your shoulders supported, most of the job was taken away and you can have a good time checking your shape in the pose and being aware of how your legs and your belly work.
If your forearms are as long as mine, you can use 2 blocks on the longest side:
You can see that to land your shoulders on the blocks, you need to bring your shoulders forward, even in front of your fingers. The same action happens when you go from Plank to Chaturanga.
What is good here is that even if you are doing unstable positions at your shoulders or elbows, you are still safe. Guarantee: no problems. But will you ever get any improvement if the blocks are so supporting? Let's try to lift your shoulders off the blocks to build up that strength you need to not using blocks anymore!
3. Support at the rib cage with BLOCK or Yoga STRAP
If you can touch and feel the rib bones on the front of your body, underneath your breast, this may work. You can put a block to this area to support in Chaturanga, and now, you can observe and be aware of how your shoulder joints position is.
Otherwise, you can use a strap by making a loop as wide as or a bit narrower than your shoulders, and wearing it around your upper arm, right above your elbows. So that it will catch you right at your front rib cage. To Yogi doers with much breast or belly, it could not be ideal support. I think 2 piles of blocks will be much better then.
4. Support along your body with a BOLSTER
How can a bolster be supporting in this powerful pose? I thought bolster was for Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga? Well yeah, but a Yoga bolster could be quite full and heavy. In this picture, I'm using a cotton stuffed bolster and it's doing just some small job for me in Chaturanga. It's also very comforting: when I give up, I just lie down on it. If you have a bigger, harder bolster, it will be very supportive, but then I think it will do more work in Chaturanga for you.
After all, all these props are to help us be aware of how we put our body together. Blocks, strap or bolsters, we will evolve from them and use less and less of their support. But having props on the journey of practicing Asana is like having safety gears when you go mountain climbing (Ok ok, Yoga is not so risky though, bad metaphor, I just wanted to say I love Yoga props).
Ha-My Le, RYT500 Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in Malmö, Sweden
Read more about how you can make other Yoga poses easier:
- Warrior 3, Half Moon - Basic standing balance poses
I'm giving Yoga classes in Malmö, Sweden. My classes are often Vinyasa Yoga, open level. I have a clear goal to learn about the body in each Yoga class.