Yoga Pose 101: Chaturanga Dandasana

Daniel Scott
Yoga Pose 101: Chaturanga Dandasana

Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose

Pronounced Cha-tour-un-gah Dun-das-ana

Fun Fact: The coffee table is a long, low table designed to support beverages or decorative items as a centerpiece for a living room, thought to initially be constructed towards the end of the Victorian Era. To aid the visualization of alignment during this pose, imagine balancing a teacup on various parts of your back, shoulders, and elbows.

Drishti: Nasagra (end of nose)

Benefits

  • Builds core strength and stability (strong like PLANK)
  • Strengthens hand/grip/arms
  • Deepens awareness of body alignment, especially in the arms and through the midline
  • Yoga Nerd Party Trick – A properly-aligned Chaturanga will have your muggle friends gasping in awe.
  • Patience Sharpener— practice with a calm, unwavering gaze for bonus points

Contraindications/Cautions

  • Injured shoulders/wrists/back. Avoid the full expression of this pose if you’re experiencing sharp or chronic pain in any of these areas. General soreness is one thing, redlining the engine is another. Check the modifications section below for alternatives for support.

Step-By-Step

From Forward Fold:

  1. Bend knees until hands (full fingers and palms) touch ground.
  2. Step/hop/jump feet towards back of mat into high plank.
  3. Align shoulders over wrists, heels over toes.
  4. Keep thighs hugged together and navel drawn inward.
  5. On an exhale, bend arms to 90 degrees, keeping the elbows above the wrists and the upper arms in line with the torso
  6. Do not lift or lower chin. Lengthen the back of neck to support a teacup without spilling a drop.
  7. Lengthen from tailbone to the top of the head, drawing shoulders drawn down the back to elongate neck.
  8. Breathe. This is arguably the most important step.
  9. Avoid curving the heads of your shoulders towards your fingertips. Keep the chest broad and shoulders engaged down the spine. This is not easy, nor will it kill you.
  10. Avoid sliding the elbows back as the arms bend. While easier, you essentially negate all of the benefits of this pose, lazy bones. Deal with it.
  11. To exit:
    1. Lower all the way down to your belly
    2. Lower hips, slide chest forward to Upward Dog / Cobra
    3. Do a full yoga push-up (Beast Mode ACTIVATE)

Modifications

You can lower the knees to help support the back. This always takes weight out of the arms and lightens the load on the rest of the body. From the position, the torso will drop below the upper arms as arm strength and shoulder flexibility is developed.

Beginners Tip

Do not skimp on this pose! Normally done as part of a Sun Salutation or vinyasa, it is very easy to rush past Chaturanga Dandasana as you try to keep up with an enthusiastic teacher. You have my permission to take an extra breath here while you think about alignment. Tell ‘em “Daniel Scott said it’s fine.”

Deepen the Pose

Hold Chaturanga Dandasana for 30 seconds. Work towards 45, then 60. Add a few yoga pushups in there. Alternatively, you can raise one foot off the ground. Put it back before raising the other. Try raising both. Gotcha!