Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) seems to be the one of the most popular poses in the yoga world. There are so many Chaturanga workshops and articles out there. So, why do I need to add my two cents to the discussion? Well, I have some loving advice for those of you who adore this pose and some tips for those of you who hate it.

For those of you who love it… Beware – an unhealthy obsession with Chaturanga can, at best, impair a well-rounded practice, or at worst, result in injury.

So, answer the following questions. Is your name Suzy, and are you addicted to Chaturanga? Is this pose the cornerstone of your practice? Do you read every Chaturanga article you can get your hands on? Do you believe that a perfect Chaturanga will lead to some type of enlightenment or, maybe more coveted, a Hollywood-worthy figure?

If you answered yes to the above questions, stop reading at the end of this paragraph and consider taking a Chaturanga Dandasana hiatus. Seriously, this is a great pose for building strength, but there are other life skills that need to be cultivated on the mat. (If you need a Chaturanga fix, practice this variation for a while.)

If on the other hand, you think “Chaturanga Dandasana” is Sanskrit for “Mission Impossible,” the next few paragraphs are for you. I know, you’ve convinced yourself you’ll never be able to do it, so you’ve stopped trying all together.  I implore you, please read on.

It is empowering to accomplish something on the mat that was previously thought to be impossible. We’ll take it slow. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Begin in Adho Mukha Savasana. On an exhale, pull the belly toward the spine, round the low back, spread the back ribs and roll forward to high plank with the hands directly under the shoulders.

In high plank, take a moment to actively recruit the muscles that will assist with the descent to the floor. Contract the abdominals. This will hold the rib cage stable, so that the scapula have something firm to stabilize against. Next, draw the scapula down toward the hips and slightly together (be sure the abs are still firm). The stabilization of the scapula helps to ensure the safety of the shoulder joint as you experiment with lowering to the floor.

Instead of practicing a full Chaturanga Dandasana, let’s start by practicing “let downs.” This is a great way to develop strength as you focus on alignment. First, drop your knees to the mat, while keeping the body in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Lower yourself all the way to the mat as slowly as you can, trying to move at a constant speed the whole way to the mat. Engage your abs and draw the shoulders down and slightly together as you resist gravity.

Here is a demonstration:

When you reach the mat, press back to Balasana (child’s pose) before returning to Adho Mukha Savasana and repeat. Practice this series 3 – 10 consecutive times three or four days a week.

(If the above variation is too difficult, practice let downs at a wall first. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Walk the feet away from the wall, keeping the body straight. The further you walk away from the wall, the harder this will be. Practice all the points of alignment and technique listed above, bending the knees and stepping toward the wall at the end of each repetition.)

After you are able to consistently and comfortably practice this, try adding a small pause at the point where your body is parallel to the ground, just above the mat. This is the most difficult point to resist gravity. Make sure you are aware of your alignment (no arch in the low back) and keep the breath long and even.

When this becomes easy, begin the above let down series again, this time keep the legs straight and the knees off the mat.

It won’t happen overnight, but be patient.  A seed doesn’t turn into a towering tree overnight.  Tend to your seedling of strength.  Before long, you will be amazed with its might.

So, how do you feel about this pose? Are you a die-hard practitioner who could probably benefit from a break? Or, are you newly motivated to try it again?  Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle and we could all learn a lot from you about the beauty of moderation? I’d love to hear your story, please comment below!

P.S. This post is part of a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for additional posts in this series.

P.P.S. We film these videos at home, right in the mix of our busy household. Sometimes, certain members of the family make cameos. Check out just one such moment in this Blooper Video.

This article has 5 comments

  1. Margaret Reply

    Thank you for posting this! I have been trying to find some “real life” examples how to properly do Chaturanga and will definitely be using this as a guide 🙂

  2. Lauren Reply

    Thank you for this! I have been trying to do Chaturanga properly but just do not have the strength. Hopefully this will build the strength I need to do it someday! The yoga instructors make it looks so easy.

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