by Lucas Rockwood
Chaturanga Dandasana (half push up pose shown in the photo) is one of the more challenging yoga poses you’ll find taught in nearly every class. Ideally, the bent elbows align in the same horizontal plane as the shoulders and in the same vertical plane as the wrists with a perfect 90-degree angle; but in reality, most students collapse as they rush through the pose.
Common misalignments include: swooping arch in the back, humped upper back, rounded shoulders, and elbows that are bent too deeply. This “half pushup” movement looks and sounds as simple as can be, but it demands the balanced strength of the entire body so it’s a tricky one to master.
Quick Tips for Improving Your Chaturanga:
- Don’t rush! Most people unconsciously blast right through this pose on their way to upward dog, but you won’t get better at this unless you take a moment to feel and practice the pose.
- Stay high! Most people bend way too deeply, beyond their ability to stabilize. It’s better to be too high with proper form than to collapse with bad alignment (you won’t make gains this way).
- Lower forward. Your weight needs to come forward, not backward, to keep your elbows over your wrists as you bend—so look and lean slightly forward as you descend from plank pose to Chaturanga.
- Use your legs. Outer rotate your legs to stabilize the spine and push down firmly into your big toe mound.
- Un-shrug your shoulders. Your shoulders will often creep up to your ears, so make a point to relax the shoulders and elbows back and away from your head.
- Gaze slightly forward. Your head can throw off your alignment very easily, so allow your neck to lengthen and gaze slightly forward on the floor/mat.
- Try using blocks. Place blocks under your shoulders to limit your ability to collapse.
- A mirror is a great teacher. Use a mirror from the side so you can see if your back is collapsing or if you’re losing your wrist/elbow alignment.
Be patient. Functional, balanced strength takes some time to develop, so make peace with the fact that you’ll need a month or two of consistent practice to find this posture. If you follow the above suggestions, you should notice huge improvements in your form and your strength.
Please post your questions and comments below—we’d love to hear from you.