stick figure doing low plank pose (phalakasana) in yoga. There is text that reads 'a guide to plank pose (chaturanga dandasana)' and a link at the bottom of the image to ''

chaturanga dandasana

chaturanga: set up

To get into chaturanga from plank pose, ensure your feet are about hip-width distance. On an exhale, lower down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor and your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.

chaturanga: alignment

upper body

Lift through the chest, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows. If you are working on building strength, it’s ok for the shoulders to be higher than the elbows. HOWEVER, it is important that you do not let your shoulders drop lower than the height of your elbows.

This will put undue stress on your acromion process – where your shoulder blade, arm, and collarbone come together to form a joint. This joint is not meant to be weight-bearing, but when the shoulders dip lower than the elbows, the joint is forced to bear weight. Your acromion process is the bony protuberance that forms a bump at the top of your shoulder. This bump should be facing forward in chaturanga – never downward.

Engage hasta bandha and keep pressing the base of your knuckles into the floor. Keep your elbows hugging in toward your rib cage, pointed back toward your heels. Your elbows should stay stacked above your wrists – you may have to shift forward on the balls of your feet. Be careful to not come too far forward that it compromises your shoulder alignment.

Keep your neck long and collarbones open. Reach your sternum forward and create a straight, solid line of energy from the crown of your head through to your heels.

mid body

Draw your low belly in toward your spine, and slightly tuck your tailbone. This will provide the feeling of support from beneath you and protect your lower back. Engage your pelvic floor muscles strongly (mula bandha).

Draw your front ribs in – this helps to activate the muscles that your shoulders and upper back need for support, as well as the whole of your body from underneath. If you feel as though your hips are sagging, bring your knees to the ground for support.

lower body

Extend through the backs of your legs, send energy out through the heels. Push back through your heels to engage your quads. This provides architectural support for your lower body. Keep your tailbone slightly tucked.

chaturanga: benefits

  • Tones and strengthens your shoulders, wrists, arms, abdomen, legs
  • Increases stamina in concentration and focus
  • Stimulates organs and digestion
  • Builds strength for arm balances and more advanced postures

Chaturanga Dandasana sets the alignment principles that will continue to show up in your yoga practice. In order to keep your joints healthy and safe, in particular your shoulder girdle and wrists, proper alignment in chaturanga is a must.

chaturanga: common mistakes

shoulders over wrists

This is why you need to shift forward in plank pose before lowering into chaturanga. Without shifting forward, when you lower, your shoulders will be over your wrists and your forearms will be on a diagonal. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor.

In this pose, prioritize the safety and stability of your shoulders.

collapsed chest

If you notice your chest is pointed down toward the floor, broaden across your collarbones and raise your sternum.

shoulders below elbows

This happens when you lean too far forward. As I mentioned above, this forces your acromion process to become weight-bearing – your shoulders will not be happy about this.

flared elbows

Keep your elbows hugging in toward your rib cage. Your elbows should be pointed back toward your heels. If your elbows are too flared or squeezed in too tight, this will potentially destabilize your shoulder joints. Some muscles will be working more than they should, others not as much as they should. You may unconsciously allow your elbows to support the weight of your torso, thereby disengaging your core. Keeping the elbows pointed straight back is the best practice.

sagging hips

If your hips are sagging, you should lower your knees to the floor for support. Strength builds in increments, and this pose requires quite a bit of core strength.

Don’t get discouraged if you need to put your knees down! No one begins their journey with the end result. Yoga is a process, a fluid journey.

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