Guest Author - Deborah Mauldin
Chatarunga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose OR Low Plank Pose) is an amazingly effective asana that works to build strength and endurance for your practice. Its effectiveness comes from activating muscles in the chest, the core, the back, the arms, and in the legs all at once. Many forms of yoga utilize a flow of postures that include Chatarunge Dandasana in order to move from standing postures into other postures and so there is a potential for you to do Chatarunga Dandasana many times in one class alone. Moving into and out of this posture without keeping your alignment can set you up for a serious shoulder injury.
Getting Into It
The best way to describe the posture is that it is the down position of a push-up with the hands under the shoulders and the arms bent 90-degrees at the elbows. There are a few different ways to come into this posture. From Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), place your hands on the floor at shoulder-width distance then step or jump both feet back so that you are in a High Plank. Bend the elbows and lower into Chatarunga Dandasana. You can also come into this posture from the floor. Lay on your belly and place your hands under your shoulders. Curl your toes under then press up into Chatarunga Dandasana.
Think Straight Lines
Chatarunga Dandasana is a challenge between you and gravity as you maintain your alignment and so keeping your alignment is imperative in order to practice this posture safely. One of the most helpful ways to check your alignment in this posture is to have a yoga instructor watch you. They can then help adjust your alignment right there and you can practice it several times with someone to help you so that you build the muscle memory to perform the posture safely every time. If you don’t have immediate access to an instructor then find a mirror and practice moving into and out of Chatarunga Dandasana while keeping the following points in mind:
1. In High Plank place the hands directly under the shoulders and spread the fingers wide. Energetically press your palms and fingers into the mat to give support to your shoulders and torso.
2. Press your heart upwards as if you were pressing it through your back. This opens up the scapulae and keeps your chest from sagging which then causes you to sink into your shoulders.
3. Elongate all the way from the top of the head through the heels. Keep the hips from sagging down or pressing upwards by engaging your core and pulling your navel to your spine. Make a long straight line of your body.
4. When lowering down from High Plank into Chatarunga Dandasana, press the hands into the mat and bend the elbows. MAKE SURE THE ELBOWS KISS THE RIBS AS YOU LOWER YOUR TORSO! This is not a regular push-up. Keep the elbows into the ribs so that you protect your shoulders.
5. Keep energetically pressing the heels back as you lower down. This helps to keep your body in the long straight line.
Create Your Flow
Use Chatarunga Dandasana as a bridge between postures. It works perfectly in a vinyasa flow to warm up at the beginning of your practice and can be used to add a bit of a flow in between series of postures. An example of how to incorporate Chatarunga Dandasana into your practice:
1. Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
3. Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Fold)
4. High Plank Pose
5. Chatarunga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
6. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
7. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
The more you practice Chatarunga Dandasana you will experience an increase in your upper body strength and in your stamina. Keep your alignment to protect your joints and enjoy this posture in your practice!
Namasté, my friends!