How to do the Chaturanga Dandasana Pose
- Begin in plank pose with your feet positioned hip distance apart or slightly closer.
- Spread your fingers wide, with your middle fingers pointing towards the front of the mat. Distribute your weight evenly throughout your palms and fingers to avoid wrist strain.
- Externally rotate your arms by turning your elbow joints outwards so that your elbow creases face forward.
- Lean forward, so that your shoulders hover over your middle fingers. Keep your back engaged and straight by firming your shoulder blades against your back ribs and scooping your tailbone slightly towards your navel. Maintain this pelvic tilt throughout the pose.
- Look forward.
- Exhale. Slowly bend your arms straight backwards (parallel to your body). Keep them close to your body, so that your upper arms brush against your sides on the way down.
- When your chest is a few inches above the mat, hold the pose. Keep your back from collapsing by preserving the pelvic tilt that engages your abdominals. Breath.
- Exhale and release. Lower your body onto the mat or move fluidly into the next pose.
Modifications and Props
Weak Arms Modification. If your arms feel weak in chaturanga pose, drop your knees to the mat in the second step (above). Keeping your knees planted throughout the pose will take weight off of the arms.
Eight-Pointed Salute (Ashtanga Namaskara). Complete steps one through five of four limbed staff pose (above). Exhale completely. Bend your elbows, keeping them close to your body. Then, holding your breath gently drop your knees, chest, and chin to the mat. Keep your toes tucked and your hips raised. Inhale and release to the mat or the next pose.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii is the large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening the arm. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk, as does the yoga push-up, chaturanga.
Pectoral muscles. The pecs connect the front walls of the chest with the upper arm and shoulders. They are responsible for drawing the arms towards the body. Chaturangas work both the pectoralis major and minor. To engage the pecs, externally rotate the arms and keep them close to the body in chaturanga pose.
Deltoids. The deltoid muscles form the rounded contour of the outer shoulders. They prevent dislocation of the arm during heavy lifting. Externally rotating the arms in four limbed staff pose engages the anterior deltoids attached to the clavicle.
Abdominal muscles. The abdominals are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. Chaturanga pose works the rectus abdominus (your six pack) and the obliques (the muscles deep in the sides of your abdomen).
Hip flexors. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting for long periods of time weakens the hip flexors, making it difficult to lift the upper legs and bend over. Chaturanga strengthens the iliopsoas, the strong hip flexor in the inner hip.
If you’re interested in a new yoga move, here’s the plow pose for beginners.
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