First time in a vinyasa yoga class and you hear your teacher say Exhale Chaturanga…you instantly get hungry for chimichangas and just don’t understand why they are cueing you to eat Mexican food. They keep saying it over and over again, you see other students around you doing this awful looking pushup action into a big backbend and then finally down ward facing dog (thank god..I kind of know that one).
This was a pretty close dialogue I had with myself in my first vinyasa flow yoga class. It was not until I had gone to a few classes that I began to actually understand what the movements were, and not until teacher training did I actually do the movements correctly.
What is a Chaturanga Dandasana or 4-Limbed Staff Pose?!
Chaturanga: Low Plank
Dandasana Staff Pose
A Chaturanga is a series of movements connected through breath to make one fluid movement. The actual Chaturanga is a low-plank, with your elbows pointed straight back, arms hugged tightly into your sides, and bent to a 90 degree angle.
The next movement is upward facing dog (Urdva Mukha Shvanasana) flip to the tops of your feet, toe nails facing down, press into your palms so the only 4 points of contact you have to your mat is your hands and the tops of your feet. Lift your thighs and lift your heart, your hands will be directly under your shoulders.
Final Movement is Downward Facing Dog (Ahdo Mukha Shvanasana). Untuck your toes, bring your feet hips width distance a part, slight bend in your knees. Rotate your armpits inward, knit your ribs in and press your chest closer to your thighs. Rest your head right in between your arms.
There is also a big focus on breath when it comes to completing Chaturanga Dandasana.
[Optional] Inhale Shift Foreword to stack shoulders slightly over wrists
Inhale Upward Facing Dog
Exhale Downward Facing Dog
We use this set of movements for a few things in our vinyasa flow yoga classes. They can be used as a transition between standing series, the set of postures us great for creating heat in the body, the low plank builds tremendous strength and the backbend gives us heart opening and spine strengthening.
Modifications and Variations to avoid Chatu-wrong-gas!
- Come down to your knees
- Stay in high plank! Ditch the low plank and upward facing dog, meet in downward facing dog
- Place a block underneath your chest to ensure a 90 degree bend
- Use a block in between thighs to ensure engagement and feet hips width distance
- Use a block in between ankles to ensure your outer ankles stay inward
If you find yourself in a class, and the thought of doing one more Chaturanga makes you want to cry and all you want to do is go eat a chimichanga, skip them! After class go get a chimichanga, some guaq and a marg with your awesome yogi friends.
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