If you've ever done a yoga class before, you're probably pretty familiar with Chaturanga (demonstrated above by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti). You might be tempted to quickly flow through it, but taking time to focus on each part of the move will help you get the most out of it and engage almost every muscle in your body. Seriously, it's that good!
"Chaturanga dandasana translates to four-limbed staff pose," says Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga. (Try this CorePower Yoga workout with weights to get a feel for the studio's style.) "You have your toes and palms on the ground while your body is a straight plank hovering over the floor with your elbows at a 90-degree angle," she says. Focusing on this pose will train and prepare your upper body for arm balances like crow, firefly, and hurdler pose.
Chaturanga Variations and Benefits
This is one of the most challenging poses in the basic flow of a Vinyasa class, says Peterson. It's a great move for building your upper-body strength, and you'll definitely feel it in your chest, shoulders, back, triceps, biceps, and forearms. (Master this move and you'll be ready for our 30-Day Push-Up Challenge for Seriously Sculpted Arms.) Similar to a plank, it also hits your core muscles, but you also need to remember to engage your leg muscles to make this full-body, says Peterson. You'll work your legs when you use them to help you distribute the force of the move throughout your body.
If you have wrist pain, try using blocks under your hands or large weights to take the bend out of your wrist. If you have shoulder pain or feel your low back or hips dipping down, come down to your knees after you shift forward in the pose. Remember: There's no shame in modifying if it means you're doing it correctly. (Next up: Beginner Yoga Poses You're Probably Doing Wrong.)
Mastered the pose already? Try lifting one leg off the mat or taking chin stand as you shift forward to make it even more advanced.
How to Do Chaturanga
A. From halfway lift, exhale to plant palms on the mat slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Spread fingers wide and step or jump back to high plank.
B. Inhale, shifting forward onto tops of toes. Draw front ribs in and hip tips up to engage core.
C. Exhale, bending elbows toward 90 degrees, elbows pointing straight back.
D. Inhale, lifting chest, hovering hips, and straightening arms to move into upward facing dog.
Chaturanga Form Tips
- While in plank, imagine rotating palms externally to fire up muscles between and on back of shoulder blades.
- Turn the inner crease of elbows forward and point elbows back.
- Engage quads and draw inner thighs together.