• Weekly Pose Tutorial: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Pointed Staff Pose)

    Also known as the Four-Limbed Staff Pose or Four Pointed Staff Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana is a pose that is commonly used in your practice. When you first start to practice you might feel like this position is kind of impossible. If you don’t have a lot of upper body strength you might tend to bellyflop to the ground. Chaturanga Dandasana helps you build up strength from whatever level you’re at in the moment. As you practice this pose you’ll develop more strength, bodily intelligence, aliveness, and awareness.

    To understand this posture think about the staff position. Your body represents a staff. From the head down to the feet, your body is knit together and making a straight line. The four points are where your body connects with the floor through the hands and feet.

    The easiest way to practice Chaturanga initially is to lie on your stomach. So let’s start out by finding the position of the pose while laying down on the floor.

    Laying on your stomach curl your toes under and lift your kneecaps off the floor.

    Take your hands to your hips and rotate your tailbone under. Squeeze your glutes slightly and lift the muscles of the lower abdomen by sucking them in.

    Firm the muscles of your lower ribs. Place your hands on the floor so they are aligned with your lower ribs.

    Draw your shoulder blades down the back but do not pinch them together.

    Make sure your shoulders are pointing forward.

    Push into the heels so you get a little bit of a bounce and practice doing that in this position to build your familiarity with the pose.

    Now push steadily through the heels and push into the ground as though you are going to lift yourself up off the ground in a pushup. You may not be able to get off the ground right now and that’s completely okay. You are building the strength to eventually do so and you are teaching your muscles what to do in the pose.

    Come up onto your hands and knees and line up blocks beneath your sternum.

    Now get into plank position.

    Your hands are under your shoulders. Your core and legs are strong. Your tailbone is tucked.

    Now lower yourself down, keeping your elbows in but now tucking the body. Your shoulder blades are down your back and your shoulders are pointed forward.

    Lower down so you are on the blocks beneath you. As you lower down wrap the elbows back so you can lower yourself down as slowly as possible. Maintain the integrity of the pose and stay there with the blocks supporting you.

    Put your knees down to come out of the pose.

    Once you’re confident doing Chadaranga onto blocks do the same thing but move the blocks so you lower slowly all the way to the floor. Don’t let your body flop to the floor. Keep muscles active and lower down slowly.

    Now that you’ve tried this method of getting into the pose you can practice with your knees down, so you can come down and up without resting on the floor or on blocks.

    Once you’re able to do the pose with the knees down you can try it without putting your knees down. As long as you can maintain the shape we practiced on the floor in the beginning you’re doing the pose correctly. When you lower yourself down don’t lower your shoulders below your elbows. You can always use blocks or bolster to support yourself as you practice and build stretch to do the pose.

    Since this is a pose you’ll do again and again it’s good to develop the habit of good alignment early. This way you’ll avoid injury in the future.

    When you do the pose remember these points:

    • Check the corners of the shoulders. Shoulderblades are back and down.
    • Your ribs are drawn in.
    • Your tailbone is tucked under. Don’t let the tailbone rise up above the line of the body.
    • Your neck is in a neutral position.
    • Front body strength, good shoulder position, and good pelvic position are essential.

    Find a way to work the pose in a way that is intelligent and safe for your body.

    Now that we’ve walked through how to practice Chaturanga Dandasana watch the detailed video by Kino below for more detail.

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  • Chaturanga Dandasana for Beginners

    In our last post we focused on the hip abductors and adductors and how they can be used to stabilize the pelvis and synergize flexing the hips in forward bends. In this post we zoom out and look at a technique that can be learned with Chaturanga Dandasana and then transported to other poses to improve benefits and safety. I call this technique “ease in, ease out” and it relates to how one approaches the end point of a pose.

    Figure 1

    For this cue, I take a yoga block and place it at the level of my sternum, then lower down to lightly touch it from plank position. I then straighten my arms to return to plank. The image that body weight practitioners use for this is “kissing the baby” because one touches the block as gently as kissing a baby on the forehead. Working in this manner teaches muscle control and sensitivity.

    Figure 2

    Those who avoid full Chaturanga due to weakness of the muscles involved can develop the strength for the full pose by starting at a wall as shown in figure 2. Here instead of the chest touching the block, bend the arms to lower towards the wall and gently touch the forehead, hold for a moment and then straighten the arms. Work in this manner until you can comfortably do ten repetitions. As strength builds, transition to a plank with the knees on the mat, lowering down to touch the block as in the final version. (Figure 3).

    Figure 3

    Visualizing the muscles involved is a powerful adjunct to this technique. Use a mental image of the triceps, pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles engaging to stabilize the arms, shoulders and chest as shown in figure 4. The triceps straightens the elbows and is a secondary stabilizer of the shoulder joint. The pectoralis major draws the upper arm towards the midline (adduction) and helps to expand the chest (when the shoulders are held in place). The serratus anterior extends from the upper nine ribs to inner (anterior) medial surface of the scapula. It acts in concert with the rhomboids to stabilize the shoulder blades and thus preventing “winging” of the scapula in this pose. (Figure 4).

    Take a moment to review our post on “co-activating the glutes and abs in Chaturanga” and integrate these muscles into this technique. Also, feel free to browse through the Yoga Mat Companion series. The illustrations in these books are designed to aid in visualizing the muscles in action in a variety of poses.  Slowing the movement as one approaches the endpoint of the pose also sets up a cadence or rhythm, especially when working with a Vinyasa Flow based practice. It can be applied to any pose and also to inhalation and exhalation, thus smoothing the breath. It also aids to protect the joints, which have smooth curved surfaces that adapt best to gradual transitions during movement.

    An excerpt from “Yoga Mat Companion 4 – Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions”.


    An excerpt from “Yoga Mat Companion 4 – Anatomy for Arm Balances and Inversions”.

    Check in next week for Part Three of this series on preventative strategies for lower back strains in yoga. Also, be sure to visit us on Facebook for your free Chakra poster and e-book.


    By Ray & Chris of The Daily Bandha

    Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga.

    Chris Macivor is a 3D Graphic Dessigner and illustrator who has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years.

    This article was originally posted on www.dailybandha.com. If you would like more practice with Chaturanga Dandasana, check out the tutorials below on Omstars.com.

    Adrian Molina’s Chaturanga Tutorial on Omstars

    Laruga Glaser’s Chaturanga Tutorial on Omstars