Chaturanga Dandasana is one of those asanas you either love and enjoy it’s challenges, or hate and avoid or fly through it as soon as possible. Translated form Sanskrit Chaturanga Dandasana means four-limbed staff (stick) asana, and the name reveals much of what this asana should looks like, as well as it’s intention.
Due to much of the weight in the upper body, Chaturanga builds strength and stability needed for arm balances, so if you would like to progress to arm balances, this is a good place to start. Since Chaturanga is a part of Surya Namaskars and connecting vinyasas, so we usually just flow through the pose, but this doesn’t mean we should do it quickly. Quite the opposite, you’re reap all the benefits of Chaturanga only by slowing it down.
Before you build enough power in your arms for all the Chaturangas in one practice, build towards it slowly by using suggested modifications below.
Plank as preparation
Use Plank to prep and to find your Danda (staff, stick). Puah your hands agains the floor to avoid hanging at your shoulders, pull your lower belly in to avoid hanging at your hips and creating an arch on your lower back. Engage your legs and feel strength and power in your whole body. Plank is like a Tadasana with arms forward, your whole body should support the position, no muscle groups should be working more than others.
Chaturanga Dandasana alignment tips
When you find your stability in Plank, bend your elbows and lower SLOWLY down to Chaturanga using your full exhale. Try not to change your body alignment, keep your elbows close to your torso and bend your elbows so they align with your shoulder. Higher is better than lower. You don’t need to get the 90° angle, it’s a more challenging option if you have flexible, healthy wrists.
Look down rather than up to avoid spine extension (neck extension usually causes the rest of the spine to extend), pull your lower belly in, elbows in and body strong.
Modification - Ardha Chaturanga Dandasana
Ardha Chaturanga or half Chaturanga, is a good option to build towards full asana. It will build strength and teach your body proper alignment without shortcuts. This is also a good option for when you get tired and can’t pull off a full asana, much better than dropping your shoulders down or losing your core, which usually happens.
Simply just drop your knees down first, but stay high with your shoulders (aligned with elbows).
Adaptation with props - Chaturanga with blocks
If you tend to drop your shoulders low, or are unsure where your shoulders are, use a block to teach your body where it needs to go and what it needs to do.
Use it under your shoulders to stop you from dropping too low for a few Surya Namasakars, hold a few moments to notice what happens in the body and where to you lose stability first. Don’t lean too much on the blocks, rather use them as a guide.