Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose, also known as Low Plank, is a Yoga asana, in which a straight body parallel to the ground is supported by the toes and palms, with elbows at a right angle.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
Do not practice Chaturanga if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or a shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury. Women who are pregnant should not practice the full version of the pose — instead, lower only a few inches, or practice Plank Pose only.
How To Do The Chaturanga Dandasana : Step-by-Step Instructions
1. To begin this asana, ease into the Plank Pose, ensuring the outer edge of your shoulders is in the same line as your middle fingers on the floor.
2. Spread out your fingers such that they are wide and slightly curled. Grip the floor with the corners of your hands so that a small pocket of air is trapped between your palms and the mat.
3. Inhale and stretch from the heels to the crown of your head.
4. Exhale and lower your body slowly into half a push-up, such that the upper arms are parallel to the floor.
5. The tips of your elbows must lightly touch the sides of your ribs as you lower yourself to maintain a 90-degree angle in the crook of the elbows.
6. Hold the asana, but continue to stretch from the heel to the crown. Your shoulders must be drawn in and plunged into the back.
Keep the following information in mind when practicing Chaturanga and you’ll be on your way to building pain-free strength and stamina:
- Do not attempt learning Chaturanga on your own. It’s best to learn the pose from a qualified and knowledgeable instructor who can provide you with guidance on the alignment before practicing it solo.
- If your arms and shoulders start to feel fatigued, you will lose the integrity of the pose. Back off for a while and practice Half Chaturanga or Ashtanga Namaskara (Knees-Chest-Chin Pose) for the rest of the class.
- Do not let your shoulders drop below the height of your elbows. It’s better for your shoulders to be too high in the pose than too low.
- Keep your elbows stacked directly above your wrists. Doing so may require coming forward a bit more on the balls of your feet, shifting your torso toward the top edge of your mat.
- Your upper arms and forearms should create a perfect 90-degree angle.
- To get a feel for the correct arm position, practice it while standing and facing a wall. Bend your elbows so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Flex your wrists, pointing your fingertips toward the ceiling. Tuck your tailbone to lengthen your low back.
- You can also practice the arm alignment by standing and facing a wall. Bend your elbows and press your palms against the wall. You can use a mirror to double check your alignment.
- In Half Chaturanga, keep the same alignment of your arms and torso as you would in the full pose — simply bring your knees to the floor.
- Do not try to use brute strength to muscle your way into the pose — this will overuse the front muscles of your body (chest, abdomen, biceps, shoulder heads). Instead, think of your body as one compact force. Utilize the back muscles of your body (back torso, shoulder blades, triceps, hamstrings, and calves) with equal effort as the front.
- Keep your elbows tucked alongside your body, reaching toward your heels — do not let them splay out to the sides.
- Remember, Chaturanga is not a push-up and requires inner strength as much as pure muscle strength.
The completed form of Chaturanga Dandasana is quite difficult to perform at first, until your arms, back, and legs are strong enough to support you. From Plank Pose, begin by lowering your knees to the floor and then, with an exhalation, lower your sternum to within an inch or two above the floor.
Modifications & Variations
Try these simple changes to find the variation that is suitable for you:
- Practice Half Chaturanga until you have built up enough strength to fully support your body with your arms. If Half Chaturanga is difficult, practice Ashtanga Namaskara (Knees-Chest-Chin Pose) until you have built up enough strength for Half Chaturanga.
- As a challenge for stronger students, place a bolster or folded blanket on the floor beneath your body in Plank Pose. Lower your body so it hovers just slightly above the prop while in Chaturanga.
- More advanced students can come into the pose by starting in Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog (with one leg lifted in the air), moving into Three-Legged Plank Pose, and then finally into Three-Legged Chaturanga. Keep the same leg lifted the entire time, as you move forward into Three-Legged Upward-Facing Dog, and back into Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog.
Benefits Of The Four-Limbed Staff Pose
These are some amazing benefits of Chaturanga Dandasana.
- It makes your wrists strong and more flexible.
- Muscles are built in your back, shoulders, and arms.
- Your core muscles are stretched and toned.
- It is a great warm-up pose for arm balances and inversions.