Spotlight on yoga: Chaturanga Dandasana
What Is Chaturanga Dandasana?
Chaturanga dandasana (chah-tuur-ANGH-uh dahn-DAHS-uh-nuh), as it is known in sanskrit, or 4 limbed staff pose (sometimes known as low plank pose), is an integral pose in Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga. Practiced often throughout the sequence as part of Surya Namaskar A and B (Sun salutation A and B), or in a linking Vinyasa (an insert of downward facing dog, plank pose, chaturanga, upward facing dog and back to downward facing dog), the pose serves to build arm and core strength, both vital for arm balances and inversions.
To better understand the pose we can look to its name:
- Chatur = four
- Anga = limb
- Danda = staff
- Asana = pose
In this context the staff refers to body back and legs which remain parallel to the floor. Your four limbs are your legs and arms. Arms are tight into the body, bent at the elbow and legs are straight with the toes tucked. Note that, as in the featured image, your sit bones should be lower than your heart and not higher. I’ve often seen this pose practiced like a baby version of downward facing dog, I’ve been guilty of it myself when tired, but its important to get the alignment right to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on the wrists.
Cahturanga dandasana is both an energising and strengthening pose. Perfecting the pose brings about a greater depth of awareness of body alignment and continued practice provides the foundation for
- Begin in plank pose.
- Slowly lower your body (keeping it parallel to the flower) until you are a few inches above the floor.
- Elbows are bent and inline with the shoulders.
- Palms are pressed into the floor at shoulder width (no wider) and elbows are drawn close into the body.
- Feet are hip width apart.
- Push into your heels engaging your legs and your core.
- Take care to ensure the abdominal muscles are engaged and the chest doest sag and the back doesn’t dip.
- Take the gaze to the tip of the nose with your face pointing forwards.
- Don’t be tempted to rush your chaturangas, far better to take your time and correct your alignment than to set yourself up for injury due to misalignment.
One legged plank to chaturanga dandasana
Increase the intensity of the pose by working through from one legged plank to one legged chaturanga dandasana. Also work towards holding the pose for longer, increasing the duration over time.
Knee chest chin
Lower your knees, then your chest and finally your chin. This is ideal to practice until you have built up enough strength to practice chaturanga.
As always listen to your body. This pose is not recommended in its fullest expression for those experiencing, shoulders, wrist or neck pain (even if its only twinging a bit!). I’d also suggest avoiding the pose when pregnant, opting instead for knee, chest chin pose and then further modifying as required. You know your body best so always work with what is best for you. Do always consult a health care professional prior to undertaking any new form of exercise.