Chaturanga Dandasana a Four-Limbed Staff Pose

Chaturanga Dandasana as shown by Kimberly at Inner Sunshine located near Auburn in Opelika, Alabama.

Chaturanga Dandasana, pronounced (chah-tuur-ANGH-uh dahn-DAHS-uh-nuh) is a seriously challenging pose. I used to hate it! My belly would drop and my arms would give out.  I wanted it to go away…but it is a staple in any kind of flow sequence and with practice, patience, and a shift in attitude I now love it!

“Chatur” — meaning “four”
“Anga” — meaning “limb”
“Danda” — meaning “staff”
“Asana” — meaning “pose”

Chaturanga strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles, and lower back. It prepares the body for more challenging arm balances. Similar to a traditional push-up, it also strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, which helps to improve posture. For those of you who already have enough core and upper-body strength to do the pose, sometimes one little adjustment can help you realize the full potential of this energizing pose. After working through my own issues with the pose — I now look forward to Chaturanga!

Do you want to  make a similar shift in your practice? Here are four tips to help you achieve Chaturanga bliss.

  1. Arms should form a right angle: For proper support, your elbows should be directly over your wrist, even as you’re moving from Plank to Chaturanga. (notice in the above photo my arms are not correct! I was still working through issues at the time the photo was taken a couple of summers ago) This can be difficult to gauge on your own; if this is the case for you and you’re concerned about your alignment, then try the pose in front of a mirror at home or better yet ask your teacher to take a look.
  2. Heels and heart go forward: You got to move! Take your body forward when transitioning to Chaturanga! Remember all cars in the train go forward at once.  By really reaching forward with your heart and heels simultaneously, you’ll feel far more energized and powerful in the pose than if you just drop your core to the floor from Plank. You’re also putting yourself in the perfect spot to transition to a a heart opening Upward Facing Dog
  3. Don’t let your shoulders round: It’s easy to hunch up and round your shoulders forward when making the move to Chaturanga. Instead, really make a point to draw your shoulder blades together, and keep your heart open.
  4. Get your head right: Keep the back of your neck long. Once you’ve transitioned from Plank to Chaturanga, it’s important to keep your neck safe. Gaze only slightly forward, just a few inches ahead of your fingertips. Looking up toward the front of the room can cause unwanted tension in your neck, but keeping a neutral line of energy in your neck will help protect your spine and keep your back and body strong. You’ll take the head back after you transition into up dog (urdhva mukha svansana)