Understanding Vinyasa Flow Yoga... Part 10: Chaturanga Dandasana
Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Here’s part ten, and the final in this series: Yoga Foundations - Understanding Vinyasa Flow Yoga!
Be sure to check out some of the previous articles, to follow the journey through the whole series.
Chaturanga Dandasana, such a desired asana, often considered the epitome of a strong flow practice!
But what commonly happens with this posture is that we try to do it when our bodies are not quite prepared, and when we don’t fully understand the best technique for us (remember we all have different bodies so it can’t be a one type fits all approach).
Chaturanga features many times in a typical vinyasa flow class, sometimes as much as 20-30 times!
We don’t do any other asana (other than upward dog, usually done as a pair during the ‘vinyasa’ movement in class) with so much repetition, so even more of a reason to really invest time in understanding how to do this posture well.
And while this post will be looking at how to move towards a stronger and safer Chaturanga - I also want to raise the question - why do we have such attachment to this asana?
Sure we want a strong practice that we feel, and that energises us, but there are other alternative movements we can use as well, and I believe changing up your ‘vinyasa’ movements will help you build a more sustainable practice, a stronger and more adaptable body. More about that later!
Back to Chaturanga…
So, let’s be real. Unless you’re already a very active person with plenty of upper body strength this posture is going to be very difficult when you first start out with it.
And that’s ok.
It’s important to be honest with ourselves and understand our own individual body well - to know where our strengths and also where our potential vulnerabilities are.
And it’s good to face some challenge: to hone our focus, to push ourselves a little, to grow and advance our practice! And this statement doesn’t just reflect the physical requirements, it’s also the mental attitude and the benefits that come with:
Trying something new
Connecting with your body
Reviewing through trial and error
Being humble to know when is the time to hold back, while not comparing yourself too much to others.
Building strength towards Chaturanga
As mentioned above, if you haven’t done a lot of upper body strengthening in your life before, this is something you’ll need time to progress with before Chaturanga becomes accessible for you.
Think about doing push-ups, as essentially chaturanga is a push up!
How many push ups can you do on your knees?
How many can you do with your knees off the ground?
If the answer to the latter is zero, or one-two (which is very common so don’t worry!), then the version of Chaturanga with knees off the ground is probably a step too far at the moment. Again, that’s ok.
With persistence and practice you can probably get there, but it’s also not the end of the world if you don’t!
One great way to build strength is to start practicing some push ups. At the wall or against a bench or chair to begin with. Start closer to the wall initially and then gradually move yourself a bit further way.
Try 10 reps of elbows out, and 6 reps of elbows in.
Elbows in is the shape we’re making with Chaturanga and one of the reasons this is tougher than elbows out (aka traditional push ups) is that it requires more strength in the triceps at the back of the upper arm - and this is commonly a weaker area for many people.
So doing these reps with our elbows inward is help