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Amsa Yoga Studio of Columbia, SC: Chaturanga Dandasana

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Uploaded on Sep 2, 2010

Deepen Your Practice
Pose of The Month:
Focusing on the Position of Your Shoulders, Elbows and Wrists in in Four Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Chaturanga Dandasana (the yoga push-up!) is perhaps one of the most challenging postures out there. In its full extension it requires strong shoulders and mindful awareness of moving from the core. So often we come into Chaturange from plank pose with our elbows bending behind the wrists. With our head lowered, looking at the floor, we lower all the way to our belly then have to scooch forward into the next pose which is almost always upward facing dog or cobra (one of my favorite teachers, Sadie Nardini calls this the "scooch of shame").

What we really need to happen is a right angle of the arms so the elbows don't bend behind the wrists. The elbows need to stay directly over the wrists for optimal support and balance.

To start, we recommend practicing this in half-plank pose or with a yoga block positioned beneath your chest (place the block half high and lined up with your breast bone) until you feel strong enough, and properly aligned enough to do the full extension.

So...are you ready? Let's give it a whirl:

Start out in downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Be rooted and firm, spreading your fingers wide, rooting down through the palms and sending the centers of the heels towards the floor. Take a few deep, long breaths here connecting with the moment and with the actions of the whole body. As you inhale, soften your belly and as you exhale draw your internal organs back and towards your spine. This helps to build awareness of your core and will help you to move into Chaturanga from your core strength rather than from momentum or trying to power through your shoulders.

From downward facing dog inhale and shift forward on into Plank Pose so that your shoulders come slightly forward of your wrists (you can do this once you're in plank pose by pressing forward with your toes). Firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and press your tailbone toward your pubic bone.

With an exhalation slowly bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle and hug them into the sides of your ribs, pointing them back towards your feet (not out to the sides like a traditional "push-up"). It's important to make sure that your elbows stay right above your wrists and your shoulders stay at the level of your elbows. Your torso and legs are elbows distance above and parallel to the floor. There's a tendency in this pose for the lower back to sway toward the floor (no hammocks!) and the tailbone to poke up toward the ceiling. Throughout your stay in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inward. Draw the pubic bone toward the navel (core strength baby!)

Keep the space between the shoulder blades broad. Don't let the elbows splay out to the sides; hold them in by the sides of the ribs and push them back toward the heels. Lift the top of the breastbone and your head to look forward (you may want to add a big, toothy smile while you're looking up).

Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the positions in the Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Release with an inhalation pressing the heart forward into upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), lifting through the top thighs and the tailbone.

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