At the beginning of my yoga journey, I was pleasantly surprised by my flexibility in yoga poses, but frustrated by my strength. Chaturanga Dandasana is the one I am struggling with the most.
Chaturanga is wedged between plank and upward facing dog. From plank to Chaturanga, most of the upper body weight shifts to shoulders and arms, but they lack enough strength to get into the pose, and core muscles are too weak to engage to maintain proper alignment throughout the pose. And we often move through chaturanga to upward facing dog so quickly that we rarely get the chance to refine our alignment.
Aside from the difficulty to do a quick Chanturanga, to hold it for 1 min sounds like a mission impossible. Unfortunately, it’s such a foundational pose that we have to master it. Chaturanga can develop the upper body and core strength which is needed for arm balances such as crow pose and flying pigeon pose. It builds stability in the shoulders, a sense of compactness at the center, and alertness in the legs, which are crucial to do inversions like headstand, forearm balance, and handstand. Chaturanga effectively strengthens legs which play an active role in poses such as bridge pose and wheel pose. In other words, Chaturanga is the cornerstone to prepare us for advance poses like arm balances, inversions, and backbends. What’s more, the mastery of Chaturanga infills us with confidence and satisfaction in our yoga practice and daily life.
As a weak beginner, how to practice Chaturanga? To build into Chaturanga, we can practice some prep postures to gain some arm, shoulders, and core strength, such as forearm plank and dolphin for core and shoulders; locust pose for the back, chest, and abdominal muscles; boat pose for core muscles; Sphinx pose to work on shoulders and chest.
After prep poses, we can try modification with blocks first. Either place two blocks near shoulders to support in shoulders or place a block underneath the core to engage core muscles and prevent the back from arching. These modifications do not make the pose easier, but they will let us know how much of our body we actually have to use in this pose. They will also help build upper body and core strength and help practice with proper alignment without dipping elbows too low and learn to engage core properly. Or we can also try variation like place our knees on the mat instead of lifting up to reduce the difficulty and in this way we can refine alignment and also strengthen core muscles.
I know even the modification and variation poses are not easy because I tried them over weeks. Though I cannot perform Charturanga perfectly for now, however, improvement is quite obvious. I believe with consistent practice, I can master it eventually!