How To Do Chaturanga For Beginners
Chaturanga can be a difficult pose for beginners, but all too often yoga teachers don’t offer enough guidance on how to practice it correctly. As a common introduction to more advanced arm balancing postures, Chaturanga should be carefully practiced in order to avoid incorrect movements that can lead to a shoulder injury.
When you're in Chaturanga, the spine is your central support system as it remains positioned in a simple, straight line. But maintaining this strong support is no simple task, and many students are doing it incorrectly without even realizing. Performing the pose the right way helps to improve your strength and condition you to do similar poses of increasing difficulty.
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How to Do Chaturanga
Follow these step-by-step instructions for performing Chaturanga.
- Begin in a high plank pose where the hands, elbows, and shoulders are arranged in a single line.
- Engage your core and bring the thighs up with your heels pushed back.
- Roll forth on the toes and position yourself so that your arms are bent at the elbow to a ninety degree angle.
- Hold the pose for a few seconds with all parts of the body engaged. Remain cognizant that you have everything positioned in a straight line.
- Finally press down in the hands and bring the tops of both feet down as you make a transition into upward dog.
The Challenges of Chaturanga
Chaturanga looks so simple - just hold your body in a straight line. But Chaturanga has significant challenges that are both inherent to the pose and can stem from improper practice. The difficulty is sometimes due to a lack of upper body strength and an inability to maintain correct alignment while executing the pose. As a result, doing the pose incorrectly can actually be harmful to the body.
But here are some things you can do to stop being your own worst enemy when doing Chaturanga:
Really Engage Your Core
One of the biggest mistakes made by beginners and yoga vets alike is the inability to get your core fully engaged. For some, it's due to a lack of strength in the core muscles. For others, it's all because the hips are not aligned with the spine and the neck. If the core muscles aren't strong enough yet, don't worry, you'll get there. Just keep at it.
Tuck the Elbows
Another major mistake that gets repeated all too often is failing to tuck the elbows into your sides. This is critical for avoiding wrist and shoulder injuries. When your elbows are too far away from the body, you're putting too much stress and weight on these areas.
Palms to the Floor
When you're performing Chaturanga, the hands and toes are the main areas of support for the rest of your body. So you want to be sure they are completely grounded to the floor in order to keep your body in complete alignment. This can only be achieved if you press your palms directly to the floor and spread your fingers. Otherwise, you will be putting too much stress and strain on the wrists and arms as you try to stay balanced.
Why Do Chaturanga?
There are plenty of benefits to doing this pose, but the primary one is building strength. When doing the pose properly you can tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles, the lower back, and of course, the arms and wrists. It can also build the muscles around the spine to help give you better posture.
Chaturanga can also provide useful benefits to your practice as the pose will help train your body to take on more advanced arm balancing poses to come.
When Not to Do Chaturanga
As we stated already, the pose puts great emphasis on the shoulders, wrists, and back. Therefore, if you're experiencing any kind of injury or medical condition in these areas you should avoid doing Chaturanga so as not to aggravate or exacerbate pain or injury. It's okay to feel a little soreness in these areas but if you have a chronic issue that causes you great discomfort, it's best to refrain from performing the pose.
Modifications for Chaturanga
You have a few options for modifying Chaturanga to offer more support for the body and help you to perform the pose with accuracy.
Drop the Knees
If you lower your knees a bit you can provide more support your back by putting less weight on the arms. This will help the rest of your body avoid feeling strained as well. Your torso will likely fall below your upper arms, but you are still improving arm strength and flexibility in the shoulders.
You have two main choices here: yoga blocks or straps. If you choose yoga blocks, grab a pair and place them beneath your shoulders. You'll want to set them on their sides so they are at the tallest possible height. Place your hands behind each block and position your shoulders above your wrists. When you're ready to perform the pose, bring your shoulders gently to the blocks but don't allow them to bear all of your weight. You want the blocks to support some of that weight while allowing your legs and core to keep doing most of the work.
You can also utilize a strap by wrapping it around your elbows. This will keep your torso from dropping down to the floor while keeping your shoulders firmly in place by preventing them from splaying out to the sides too far. You can also depend on that strap to support some of your body weight in the bargain.
Chaturanga is an important pose in yoga, but one that doesn't always get the recognition it deserves because it can take a long time to perfect. But now you can put the time and effort into performing it properly and allowing yourself to do the work necessary in order to reap the many benefits Chaturanga offers. As your skills improve you can challenge yourself to hold it for longer intervals. Start at thirty seconds and slowly work your way up to keeping it for a full minute. You can even try adding in some yoga push ups or alternate lifting a foot from the ground as your strength and flexibility increase.