What is Chaturanga Dandasana?
A challenging yoga posture, Chaturanga Dandasana translates to Four-limbed Staff pose but it also means low plank. The posture is popular in Ashtanga yoga and is a part of the Ashtanga yoga Surya Namaskar series. While it is a pose that requires you to engage core and arm strength with confidence, Chaturanga Dandasana is often introduced to beginners too with variations. Initially, the right alignment and actual pose may be difficult to achieve, but as one builds strength it can be achieved. Chaturanga Dandasana is also practiced in many different Vinyasa flows and as a transitional posture. Once this pose is achieved, you can attempt arm balances quite effortlessly.
Position type: Core strengthening
Posture type: Balancing
Ideal for: Strength
Targets: Arms, shoulders, core
Pose level: Intermediate
How to prepare for Chaturanga Dandasana?
Arm and Core Strength
The low plank pose is perfect for building arm and core strength. However, a fair amount of strength is needed to do the pose itself. It requires one to engage the arms and core to be able to hold the posture with ease as there is a lot of pressure on the arms. To practice, one can start with doing push-ups, push-up drills, low plank with knees on the mat, and exercises such as push-ups, Low Plank to High Plank and Plank to Downward Facing Dog Pose. Regularly practice Surya Namaskars at a medium pace, the Boat Pose, Chair Pose, the Warrior Poses and Triangle Pose. For arm strength, practicing Upward Facing Dog Pose, Cobra Pose and Downward Facing Dog are also helpful.
With practice, you’ll slowly start to improve balance too. This will help hold the posture for longer with strength and ease. Practice poses such as the Tree Pose, Eagle Pose and Dancer’s Pose. Even the Warrior Poses and the Chair Pose will help improve balance. You can even attempt to practice arm balancing postures with support as they help build arm strength.
How to do Chaturanga Dandasana
Getting into the posture
- From the plank pose, shift your body forward such that the shoulders are in front of the wrists and feet are on the toes (toes tucked in).
- Roll the shoulders back so that your chest is open. This will also ensure the head and neck come up and are in line with your spine.
- Now bend the elbows straight back keeping them close to the side of your body as you lower down into Chaturanga. Ensure they do not flare out to the sides as they might in a push-up.
- Since the shoulders are already in front of the wrists, your forearms will form a perpendicular position to the floor. Ideally, the upper arms shoulder be parallel to the floor.
- Engage the arms and core to control how low you can go towards the floor.
- Take deep breaths as you pause here for a few seconds.
Getting out of the posture
- After holding the pose for a few breaths, you can either drop the knees and come into Child’s pose.
- You can also scoop up to the Upward-facing Dog pose keeping the chest open and broad.
Key alignments in Chaturanga Dandasana
1. Ensure the shoulders are shifted forward ahead of the palms.
2.Do not allow the chest to collapse. Keep the chest and back engaged.
3. Keep the toes tucked in to ensure stability.
What are the benefits of Chaturanga Dandasana?
Chaturanga Dandasana strengthens the core, wrists, arms, shoulders and legs. It engages the muscles across the arms, upper body, abs, lower back and legs. The asana is beneficial in helping you achieve challenging intermediate to advanced poses such as crow pose, scorpion pose, handstand and many other arm balances.
What are the contraindications of Chaturanga Dandasana?
Avoid this asana in case of any shoulder, wrist or leg injuries. In case of back pain also you should ideally avoid this asana. Women should avoid practicing Chaturanga Dandasana during pregnancy.
What are the counterposes of Chaturanga Dandasana?
Variations of Chaturanga Dandasana
- Start practicing by placing the knees on the mat. Practice shifting your weight forward until the shoulders are ahead of the wrists.
- You can also try to lower the knees to the floor after you have shifted your weight forward in the posture.
- You can also practice Ashtanga Namaskar initially.
- Once comfortable, you can practice coming lower towards the mat with better control.
- You can also make it more challenging by lowering down from Plank with only one foot on the floor, the other leg raised parallel to the floor.
- You can also try knee taps by bringing your right knee towards your right elbow. Then repeat on your left side.
Advice for beginners
If you find it difficult to keep the chest engaged as this requires upper-body strength, then practice an easier version initially till you build you enough strength. Do not force yourself to come too low to the mat. Just a little bit is enough in the beginning. Also ensure you do not allow the hips to sag or elbows to stick out.
- Ensure your arms and shoulders are set up with the right alignment to avoid the shoulders hovering over the wrists.
- Start by focusing on building arm and core strength and gradually work your way towards the right pose, alignment and trying to hold the pose for a longer duration.
- Practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher to avoid injuries.
Learn how to practice Chaturanga Dandasana as well as several drills that work towards improving arm, shoulder and core strength LIVE on Shvasa.