Four Limbed Staff Pose  -Chaturanga Dandasana

Step by step

  • From Plank Pose
  • Firm your shoulders flat on your back and make your back muscles strong. Make sure your lower belly is lifting in and up and your tailbone is pointing toward your feet. Firm the front of your body into the back of your body.
  • Rock forward a little over the toes, so you are projecting your body forward.
  • Look a little in front of you to keep the neck long. Keep the elbows close to the ribs pointing back the whole time.
  • On an out-breath lower the whole body like a plank to the floor, keeping your forearms at a right angle to the floor. Lower only so far that the upper arms stay parallel to the floor and that there is a right angle between the upper and lower arms. Lift the front of the shoulders away from the floor the whole time.
  • This pose is usually a transition between other poses as in Sun Salutations or vinyasas. You can also practice it by itself and hold it for between 10 to 30 seconds.
  • On an inhale transition into Upward facing dog pose. If you can keep your back in plank (no collapsing in the lower back) you can also push back up to Plank pose on an out-breath.

Beginners tips

  • This can be a difficult pose for complete beginners! Start with knees-chest-chin / Ashtanga Namaskara: From Plank pose lower your knees, keep your core engaged and move your chest and chin towards the floor. Keep your shoulders up away from the floor and keep your chest open.  See below for more variations on this pose that will help lead you to the full expression.
  • Be careful that your shoulders don't come lower than your elbows, this can lead to injuries.

Benefits

  • Strengthens the core, wrists, arms and legs.
  • Great preparation for more arm balances.

Watch out for

  • The tendencies in this pose are for the tailbone to lift up and the back to collapse down. Think about what a plank looks like and make the back of the body look like that as much as possible.
  • This is a strong pose which is repeated many times per class in some styles of yoga like Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow. It is important to get your technique right to avoid injuries to the shoulder. Don't allow the chest and shoulders to dip lower than the elbows. Read part five of Jennilee Toner's series on injury prevention for more about safe alignment in Chaturanga - Joint Integration

Variations

  • As an alternative to Chaturanga you can either use Ashtanga Namaskara / Knees Chest Chin (see Beginners tips)
  • Or you can practice a Diagonal Chaturanga. From Plank pose bring the knees down, then slowly lower the rest of the body in one straight line with the elbows tucked in alongside the ribs.
  • For an extra challenge in Chaturanga practice with only one foot on the floor, the other leg raised parallel to the floor.