Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) allows us to link poses through fluidity. It is one of the great strength poses of yoga and when combined with downward facing dog and plank pose help us move through standing and seated sequences with ease; commonly known as vinyasa (moving with breath).
It is one of the most misunderstood poses and mis-performed poses of yoga. When mastered, and I say this lightly this pose gives us confidence, grounding, strength and power to move in the direction we seek as yogis both on and off the matt
Body Parts Effected: wrists, bicep and tricep, shoulders, core legs and back
Preparatory poses: Plank Pose, Downward Facing dog, knees-chest-chin, side plank
Pose type: Strength
Also known as: Chaturanga Dandaasana (Chatur=Four, Anga=limb, Danda= Staff, Asana = Pose)
1. Begin in Plank Pose. Rock back and forth slightly to understand your balance and you’re foot position, adjust as needed so that when you rock forward your shoulders align right over your wrists.
2. Slowly bend the elbows keeping the arms grazing the body. The elbows should come to a 90 degree angle with the wrists which will be directly below them.
3. Pull in the lower belly and keep your back flat. You will feel you are well above the floor.
4. Lift through your chest, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows. Do not let your chest drop or sag toward the floor. You will feel some “up dog” in the chest as you look forward ahead of your fingertips, keep the neck in alignment with the spine.
5. Firm the tops of your thighs (quadriceps)
6. If the full pose is too challenging right now, come to your knees first. Then, lower your torso to keeping the back straight, remember there is a straight line from shoulder to elbow and all of this is in line with the body, Shoulders never “wing up” with the body sitting below. This is Half Chaturanga.
7. Do not let your elbows splay to the sides. Keep them hugged along your ribcage, pointed toward your heels.
8. Press the base of your knuckles into the floor. Your upper and lower arms should be perpendicular, bent 90 degrees at the elbows.
9. You can either gently roll into upward facing dog or cobra from here, or lower to the floor.
Use of a Props and Modifications
1. For beginning students, drop the knees to the mat and lock arms into sides lowering all the way to the floor (half Chaturanga). This will help you work with building strength. As you progress still drop the knees but now lower down only half-way. Once you can do this with ease then attempt full chaturanga.
2. If you have carpel tunnel or wrist issues and have been cleared by a doctor coming to the knees and using fists instead flat palms may provide a useful modification.
3. When learning the full pose placing blocks on the medium setting below the chest is an excellent tool to learn just how far to come down. You can lower to the blocks which will be just at the 90 degree angle of the elbows, then lift back to plank, trying this a few times.
4. To get a feel for the correct arm position, practice it while standing and facing a wall. Bend your elbows so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Flex your wrists, pointing your fingertips toward the ceiling. Tuck your tailbone to lengthen your low back.
5. You can also practice the arm alignment by standing and facing a wall. Bend your elbows and press your palms against the wall. You can use a mirror to double check your alignment.
a. Always consult your medical professional prior to beginning any exercise program
b. If you have carpel tunnel syndrome, wrists issues, tendonitis, shoulder issues, this pose needs to be modified (see above) or removed from practice for a time until you have healed.
c. If you are pregnant, dropping your knees and lowering down only slightly may be the best option in later trimesters.