Chaturanga dandasana is one of my favorite yoga poses. Many people think of chaturanga as a beginner pose because it is one of the first poses most students learn. In reality, performing this pose with proper alignment requires a great deal of strength, which is one of the reasons I love it. I also love the smooth and fluid feel of a basic vinyasa, it’s immediately calming and centering for me.
Even though it is used repeatedly in almost every yoga class, many people do it improperly. I noticed this a lot myself teaching PiYo. When we included this pose in the #sweathappywithyoga challenge, and I included one of my top tips. Since I got such positive feedback, I thought I would share it here and expand on it to include some of the other alignment tips I’ve used in teaching PiYo and in my own practice. Note: I’m not a yoga teacher, these are just alignment cues I’ve gathered from instructors over the years that have helped me in my own work in the pose.
1. Place your hands so your index finger points forward. This is helpful for seriously any pose (or exercise) where your weight is in your hands. I used to have so much wrist pain doing push-ups, yoga, and planks. Then someone corrected my hand placement – I had my middle finger pointing forward – and I haven’t had a problem since (although my wrists still do get tired sometimes!).
2. Look where you are going: forward. Taking your gaze in front of you will help you move in the right direction.
3. Shift your weight forward, not down. Because we “lower” into chaturanga, a common mistake is to lower straight down. That seems like the logical motion, but you will end up with the wrong alignment in the arms. Instead, enter the pose from plank by shifting your weight as far forward as you can, so far that you can barely stay on your toes. As you shift forward, you will lower down naturally. Here is the video I posted on instagram to demonstrate:
In the top video, I lower straight down and end up in the wrong position. In the bottom video, which shows the correct form, I shift my weight forward. That way, once I’m in the pose, arms are properly positioned with my forearms at a 90 degree angle to the ground and my upper arms parallel to the ground.
4. Engage you legs and your core. This will help keep your body in one straight line.
5. Keep your elbows in. Your elbows should be pointing straight back, and pulled in so that they “shave” your ribcage. I always tell my students, if you can’t keep the elbows pulled in, go to your knees. Lower from your knees until you build enough strength in your arms. And that brings me to possibly the most important tip:
6. Modify if you need to! Because this pose is used over and over, there is a greater risk of injury from repetition if your alignment isn’t correct. Forget your ego. There is NO shame in modifying. Listen to your body. You will get stronger with practice. <3
Questions: How do you feel about chaturanga? Do you have any “basic” poses that are favorites?