Yoga Pose Breakdown and Fixes: Chaturanga Dandasana

Renowned teacher Brett Larkin breaks down one of the more challenging common yoga poses, and offers fixes and modifications to make it work for you.

Looking for a pose tuneup? YouTube sensation Brett Larkin has you covered. Here’s what you need to know about one of the most infamous poses that’s ubiquitous in Ashtanga and Vinyasa classes, to name a few. 

Chaturanga: That infamous and challenging pose that requires extreme strength in the arms and abs. If practiced properly and regularly, Chaturanga prepares the body for inversions and arm balances.

Chaturanga Dandasana: Four-Limbed Staff Pose

It’s one of the hardest yoga poses, resulting in shoulder injuries if practiced incorrectly. Just as it looks, you’re supporting yourself through your hands and toes. But there are a lot of muscles working to keep you there. You might practice Chaturanga during sun salutations, as well as at any Vinyasa or Ashtanga class. For classes like these, it forms the structure of most of the class.

Something you do so much… you’d rather be doing it properly, right?

The thing is you see all kinds of things during Chaturanga. From chest sinking, to shoulder pinching, you can see it all. And the truth is most teachers don’t have time to properly break it down in class. Sometimes it’s a fast paced class or the class is too short, and there just ‘isn’t time to go into it.’

Yet, what you probably want to do is exactly that—go into it. Explore it. Break. It. Down.

For many, Chaturanga can really make or break their practice. It can end up being something that really supports their practice or something they avoid entirely. So it’s worth taking time to check you’ve got this. You’ll want to be sure that you’re feeling good. If you’re not feeling strong, or it feels too much, it’s possible this posture isn’t the right one for you. And if it isn’t, please feel free to modify by trying Fix #4. This posture will help build the strength required for Chaturanga and is much safer for you if Chaturanga feels like too much.

With the video above and the below fixes for some of the most common mistakes, you’ll be well on the way to Chaturanga. You’ll know what to do and what not to do.

Modifications and Fixes

Fix 1
From plank, shift your weight forward, pushing through your feet and bending your elbows to a 90 degree angle to your wrist as you lower down.

Fix 2
Think of pulling up through your abs and your legs so that your shoulders stay in line with your elbows. Don’t let your chest sag towards the floor. Keep your butt, chest and shoulders in one line.

Fix 3 (Elbows)
Keep your elbows close to your body, not splaying out side to side.

Fix 4 (Modification)
Drop your knees to the floor as you build up strength in your abs and upper body. Lower your upper body to the mat. Better to modify than to risk injury.

Whether you practice Chaturanga or a modified version, you’ll be building some serious strength in your upper body and core, as well as in your back and legs. It does feel challenging, but the amazing thing is with time it could become effortless! It’s all about practicing and little by little feeling stronger in this new posture.

Remember it’s called yoga practice, not yoga perfection. It’s not about it being perfect. It’s about your awareness while you practice and what you learn from it. So be kind and start off from wherever you are today.

So why not give it a go, like right now? Roll out your mat, find a space and take 5 minutes to get a proper breakdown of Chaturanga. How does it feel in your body? How do fixes 2 through 4 feel for you?

woman in chaturanga pose

Brett-LarkinBrett Larkin teaches vinyasa flow yoga at top San Francisco studios, companies like Google and Pinterest, and on her YouTube channel, where thousands of students have studied with her for over 6 million minutes. Get her free yoga playlists, yoga teacher training tips, and free dance, yoga, and meditation classes at Beginner or intermediate yogis can enjoy her online course on deepening your yoga practice.