Oh, chaturanga dandasana. We’ve had a long and complicated relationship. I remember my first few yoga classes way back when, and how it was unclear to me that people were not in fact lowering themselves all the way to the floor. They were – gasp – hovering! And when I first tried you, how miserably I failed. You may not come easily, chaturanga, but perseverance pays off.
There is nothing like supporting your own body weight for building strength. Which is why you must not do a drive-by with this pose, cruising as fast as you can into upward facing dog. As Baron Baptise puts it in his book Journey Into Power: A lot of students try to sneak their way past Low Push-Up and move directly from High Push-Up to the next pose, which is Upward Facing Dog, but I strongly encourage you not to do this. Find ways to work within the pose. Modify, dilute, research, but don’t run or avoid the work. Challenge yourself sensitively and your weakness will soon turn to strength. Uh huh, what he said. And Iyengar’s Light on Yoga recommends holding chaturanga for 30 seconds (each time, I wonder?).
I’m pretty sure that chaturanga is not on many yogi’s favorite pose list. It’s definitely not on mine. But as we all know, the poses we don’t like tend to be the ones that benefit us the most. That help as grow as yoga practitioners. So I found it somewhat amusing that there is a t-shirt with chaturanga on it, over at Down Dog Boutique. We’ve all seen the tees that showcase (presumably on a chaturanga-ed upper bod) our asana aspirations – pincha mayurasana, king pigeon – but chaturanga?! Really? And not glorified at all either – just a no-nonsense, four-limbed staff pose on this baby. I had to have it. Because I know – it ain’t flashy, but it’s packed with power.
And because, you see, I’ve become slightly obsessed with chaturanga over the years. And not just for what it can do for me. I feel obligated to trouble-shoot everyone’s chaturanga pose on retreat, for the simple reason that if you are doing it wrong, you are cheating yourself of one of yoga’s best gifts (not to mention probably setting yourself up for injury. Rotator cuff issue? Blame a bad chaturanga pose). I feel obligated to fine-tune this underdog of poses that holds together every vinyasa, every sun salutation like glue. I have tons of tips to make it look like the four-limbed staff pose on that tee, and I offer them up on every retreat. While wearing mine, of course.
Just call me the Chaturanga Cowgirl. Yeehaw & Namaste.