- Sanskrit (Original): Caturaṅga Daṇḍāsana
- Etymology: Four (chatur); limb (aṅga); staff, stick (daṇḍa); pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: Has it ever occurred to you that you could hold Chaturanga for more than one exhale? Spoiler alert: You can!
- Asana Type: Arm Balance
- Main length muscle groups: ["back leg","arm"]
- Main strength muscle groups: Spinal extensors, spinal flexors; serratus anterior, rotator cuff, deltoid, pronator quadratus, pronator teres; muscles of the wrists and hands; hamstrings, adductor magnus, gluteus maximus
- Vinyasa Breath: Exhale
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1 Start in Phalakasana with the shoulders slightly ahead of the wrists.
- 2 Come onto the balls of the feet and push the heels back. Imagine you want to push a wall behind you away. This engages the quadriceps.
- 3 Draw your chest forward to create a straight line from the crown of the head to the heels.
- 4 Inhale and draw the shoulders and the tops of the thighs away from the floor.
- 5 Pull the navel to the spine to engage the core.
- 6 With the next exhalation, bend the elbows and pull them in.
- 7 Shift forward onto the toes to move the torso forward so that the shoulders come further forward.
- 8 Slowly lower yourself toward the floor with control until the shoulders are at the same level as the elbows. Keep the elbows glued to your ribs and the body as straight as a staff (hence the name!).
- 9 The upper arms are parallel to the floor while the forearms are in a vertical line with the elbows stacked above the wrists.
- 10 Avoid dropping your belly down or sticking the sitting bones up by slightly tilting your pelvis back. This means that you curl in your pubic bone.
- 11 Exit Chaturanga Dandasana by lowering into a prone position or transitioning to Adho Mukha Svanasana.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Stack the elbows and the wrists: A very common observation is that the hands are placed under the shoulder joints. This leads to a downward rotation of the scapulae (shoulder blades) and an overuse of the pectoralis (chest) muscles. Instead, place your wrists exactly under your elbow so that your forearm is in a vertical position.
- Lift the shoulders: Avoid dropping the shoulders down but keep them at the same height as your elbows. This means that your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Keep the elbows close to your body: Focus on keeping the elbows close to the body when lowering down. Imagine they are glued to your ribcage. Remember that Chaturanga Dandasana is not a wide-armed pushup. The tips of the elbows should face backward instead of sticking out toward the sides of the yoga mat.
- Push the thighs back: Although it is very tempting to place the knees down onto the mat if you feel you can’t hold Chaturanga Dandasana any longer, this will not help you to get stronger. This is because you need to push your thighs back (i.e. up towards the ceiling in this position) in order to stabilize your body.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- Build up the strength needed for Chaturanga Dandasana by practicing it against a wall. This will help you get a feeling for the correct arm position. Stand in front of a wall facing it. Place the hands against the wall so that the forearms are parallel to the floor. Bend the elbows and keep the wrists flexed, i.e. the fingertips point toward the ceiling. Also practice engaging the core here by pulling the navel in. Tuck the tailbone and tilt the pelvis slightly back to lengthen the lower spine.
- You can also substitute this pose with alternatives such as Knees-Chest-Chin Pose (Ashtanga Namaskara). Simply lower the knees onto the ground when you’re in Plank Pose. However, remember to keep the core engaged as you lower down. This time, you also place the chest and chin on the floor so that the buttocks stick out. Also, keep the shoulders away from the floor and broaden the collarbones to open the chest.
- Another alternative is High Plank (Phalakasana). This means that you keep the arms straight before attempting the full pose.
- Practice Chaturanga Dandasana with your feet pushing into an actual wall. This reference will help you to really fire up your legs.
- Place two blocks upright behind your forearm. The blocks serve as a reference for the vertical alignment of your forearms and will fall over once our elbows move too far back. This practice can help you to break your habits in Chaturanga Dandasana.
- Spice up your practice by transitioning into Chaturanga Dandasana from Tri Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (Three-Legged Dog). Keep the leg lifted as you move into a Three-Legged Plank Pose, and subsequently into Three-Legged Chaturanga.
- If that’s still not challenging enough for you, you can work on holding Chaturanga for an extra breath or two (or more!) to build even more strength. Or you can simply add a few extra rounds of Chaturanga into your yoga practice.
Benefits of Chaturanga Dandasana
- Low Plank is a great strength-builder for the arms and the entire upper body. It does not only strengthen the upper arm and forearm muscles but also increases flexibility and strength in the wrists and hands.
- Chaturanga Dandasana also teaches you to stabilize your core muscles, thereby toning abdominal muscles.
- It strengthens the arms, shoulders, abdomen, and back muscles and, thus, can improve your overall posture.
- Apart from that, it can improve your sense of balance and teach you to stay calm and focused.
- Low Plank is a great preparation for more challenging arm balances such as Bakasana or Parsva Bakasana. It is therefore often referred to as the ‘Mother of Arm Balances’.
Pose VariationsSee all Poses
Pose variations can be anything that makes the original pose easier or more simple but also anything making it more challenging or adding complexity.
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Preparatory PoseSee all Poses
Preparatory poses are poses that have a similar shape to the pose you want to prepare for but maybe in a different alignment towards gravity and/or poses that target specific body areas to warm up, stretch or strengthen in order to lead to the final pose. Include preparatory poses when you build yoga sequences.
Counter PoseSee all Poses
Counter poses serve to balance the body back into neutral after a pose or a set of same poses. E.g. symmetrical poses balancing asymmetrical poses, forward folds or twists balancing backbends, balancing challenging poses with restorative poses. Use counter poses to build sequences that feel amazing – you can use our free Sequence Builder tool to get started.
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I remember the struggles I fought with this pose at the beginning of my yoga journey. But by now, it’s the perfect example of how loathing can turn into loving (not just phonetically).
Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
You will probably have heard a yoga teacher saying: “Let’s do a Vinyasa” as they lower down into Chaturanga. A Vinyasa actually simply is just a set sequence of asanas. So, what they often mean is the transition from Downward-Facing Dog to High Plank, Low Plank, Cobra and back to Downward-Facing Dog. So, Chaturanga is a pose in one of the most commonly practiced Vinyasas.
Chaturanga is in itself not a very complex or complicated pose. It mainly requires stability and good awareness of the position of your body. This is why even yoga newbies may be able to perform this pose straight away if they are strong enough. On the other hand, you may find really experienced yogis who still do not have enough strength to keep the body stable. So the answer is as easy as always: It depends.
If your aim is to perform the full pose eventually, I’d not recommend practicing Chaturanga with bent knees. The thing is that the activation of your thighs, i.e. pushing them back up, is a very important factor for your stability in this pose. If you place the knees on the ground, you defraud yourself of the chance to practice this activation of the thighs. However, you suffer from a shoulder injury, for example, placing the knees on the ground can help you to keep up with the class and transition down onto the ground without putting a lot of strain on your shoulder.
If you don’t feel ready for Low Plank (yet!), don’t worry. There are a few options for you to practice Sun Salutations without Chaturanga. You could, for example, place the chest and the chin onto the yoga mat as you lower down. If you suffer from a shoulder injury, place the knees on the ground for a Half Chaturanga. In some forms of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), High Plank is used instead of Low Plank.