Good morning Yogis! We are continuing our detailed breakdown of each of the poses in the Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations Series.
Chaturanga Dandasana (CHA-too-RAHN-guh Dan-DAH-sa-na) or 4 Limbed Staff is the most difficult pose for those with weak arms in this series. I have also heard this sometimes called “Yoga Push-Up” a fitting name and good way to think about this Asana. It took me almost 5 years to be able to slowly lower and hold into the Chaturanga Dandasana from Plank! And I am still working on pushing back up into an Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing Dog (like Emily Blunt ideally). Today we will be performing our Sun Salutations series first with Ashtanga Namaskara (ahsh-TAHN-guh NA-mahs-CAR-uh) or knees-chest-chin, and work into the full expression of the traditional Asana in the series.
Today’s Daily Yogi Practice is to again perform the traditional Asana series – Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations. Today, we will do the full series three times on each side. We will progress from Ashtanga Namaskara to Chaturanga Dandasana with our three repetitions. Since this pose is a challenge for me as well as other new Yogis who are working on building up arm strength, our focus will be Santosha / Contentment again, and honoring and accepting where we are on our Asana journey. Jump to today’s variations!
Chaturanga Dandasana – 4 Limbed Staff
Feet – You should keep feet in place after lowering from Phalakasana / Plank, about hip distance apart and supported on toes and top of balls of feet.
Legs – Try to keep your body in a straight line as you lower down from Phalakasana / Plank. However, it is more important to keep your body in a straight line from head to knees than to have your legs straight, so feel free to drop knees to the mat to enable you to lower your chest to the mat slowly with control.
Hips – Keep your hips in line with the rest of your body when lowering from Phalakasana/Plank. After lowering to the ground, if coming into Ashtanga Namaskara / knees-chest-chin, you will raise your hips to come into the pose.
Arms – This pose is great for building arm strength, but requires a lot of strength for the traditional pose. As you lower from plank, bend your elbows to slowly lower yourself, keeping your elbow tucked tight next to your ribs. As you are working into the pose, your hands will likely be directly below your shoulders. As you build strength, you should try to work your hands down, closer to your ribs than shoulders.
Head and Neck – Keep your head in line with the rest of your body, looking down. Note where your ears are compared to your shoulders. Most of us keep our heads slightly forward. If you notice you are doing this, tuck your chin slightly and gently press back to bring your neck and ears into alignment with your shoulders. Gaze straight down at your mat.
The first round, from Phalakasana / Plank we will lower down to the mat gradually. Many new Yogis basically drop the entire way to the mat in this series, which does not help build the arm strength needed to lower with more control or work into Chaturanga Dandasana. First drop the knees to the mat, keeping your arms straight, maintaining the straight line in your body straight from head to knees. Keep your feet supported by your toes and the tops of your balls of your feet as they were in Phalakasana / Plank. Then slowly bend your elbows, keeping your hands under your shoulders, arms close to your ribs, and elbows pointing straight back/up while keeping your hips lifted. Lower your chest slowly until it meets the mat, and look ahead and rest your chin on the mat. Ashtanga Namaskara is a pose of its own and literally translates to 8 Limbed Salute, and this Asana / pose has eight points of contact with the mat at chin, chest, hands, knees, and feet. Take a full inhale and exhale here before pressing into your hands into the mat on an exhale and moving on to complete the Sun Salutation series on each side.
The second round, from Phalakasana / Plank we will lower down slowly, with control, keeping our bodies straight all the way to the floor. Keep your arms tucked close to your ribs and elbows pointing straight up/back, all the way down flat to the mat. Make sure your hands stay just below your shoulders, and Keep your feet supported by your toes and the tops of your balls of your feet as they were in Phalakasana / Plank. As your body hits the mat, look ahead and place your chin on the mat. Now lightly press your hands and toes into the mat as you raise your hips to come into the full expression of the pose again. Take a full inhale and exhale here before moving on an exhale to complete the Sun Salutation series on each side.
The last round, we will try a full expression of Chaturanga Dandasana. Come into Phalakasana / Plank and exhale and lower down slowly, with control, keeping arms close to the body again. However, this time we will stop just above the floor, maintaining the straight line from head to heels and active core we held lowering from Phalakasana / Plank. It is easiest to keep hands under shoulders, but work towards having your hands a bit lower than your shoulders as you gain arm strength. Hold here in Chaturanga Dandasana, pressing hands and feet into the mat and keeping a straight line, for as long as you can! Count how many breaths you are able to take in this challenging pose and share with the group! I can personally only hold for about 2-3 breaths at this point.. arm strength is one area Asana/Yoga has helped me improve, but I am still working on it.
For your own practice, I would recommend evaluating where you are with both honesty and compassion. If you are falling to the ground quickly, I would recommend dropping to your knees and coming into Ashtanga Namaskara as in our first exercise. Chaturanga Dandasana helps build arm strength for more challenging arm balances, so I recommend working on the progression to Chaturanga Dandasana if you want to further your Asana practice.
Please comment to share your experience with this exercise! Were you able to come into Chaturanga Dandasana? How long were you able to hold this Asana? Did you prefer Chaturanga Dandasana or Ashtanga Namaskara? Always remember, be kind!
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