4 Tips To Nail Chaturanga In Your Vinyasa Flow

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Chaturanga, formally known as chaturanga dandasana, is essentially a low plank (some like to call it a "yoga pushup"). It's a difficult pose to pull off and, unfortunately, an easy one to do with improper form. 

Despite coming from an athletic background—I played soccer, softball, and tennis throughout my childhood—I struggled with chaturanga. My upper body was weak, and I could just tell I wasn't doing it correctly. It took some serious practice to get it just right.

Whether you've been practicing for years or are just beginning your yoga practice, have no fear: You can master chaturanga. In fact, you should prioritize mastering it if you practice a lot of vinyasa—doing chaturanga with improper form can put you at risk for shoulder injuries or overexert your joints. When done correctly, however, chaturanga serves to strengthen your entire core and upper body. 

Here are my go-to tips for how to do chaturanga the right way: 

1. Start with your knees down.

There is no shame in bringing your knees down while you're still working on upper-body strength. Correct alignment is far more important than being able to hold in a low plank with your joints all over the place. Bring your knees down to the mat before you lower halfway down.

Image by Ava Johanna Pendl

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2. Keep your elbows glued to your rib cage.

The most common misalignment I see in class is students lowering into a wide-armed pushup position when doing chaturanga. Instead of bringing the elbows out wide, focus on gluing the elbows to both sides of the body as you are lowering slowly. You want your elbows to bend backward rather than out toward the side of the mat.

Image by Ava Johanna Pendl

3. Ensure that your shoulders are in line with your elbows.

If you want to avoid getting injured, make sure that you're not dropping your shoulders beneath your elbows like a dolphin diving into the water. The body should be in one long line all the way from the crown of your head to the backs of your heels. You want to avoid hiking your lower body up and letting your shoulders droop. Keep the gaze down and the back of the spine long.

Image by Ava Johanna Pendl

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4. Move slowly.

The best way to prevent an injury is to move slowly and intentionally through the posture rather than rushing through to get to downward-facing dog.

As mentioned, chaturanga is the low plank position. It is not the entire flow from high plank through upward-facing dog into downward-facing dog. When we rush through this entire breath-to-movement sequence, we can easily fall out of alignment. I always invite my students to stay in chaturanga until the next posture is queued so they can fully feel their core engage and find their best alignment in each pose. 

How to flow through chaturanga to upward-facing dog:

  • Place your hands under your elbows, and elbows under your shoulders.
  • Pull your abdominals in and engage your core.
  • Push your thighs up and heels back.
  • Roll forward on your toes and lower your body until your arms make a 90-degree angle. 
  • Pause at this point, keeping your core engaged.
  • Flow into upward-facing dog. 
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Remember that this is your practice.

Above all, we need to remember that yoga is your unique practice—everyone's experience is different. So if chaturanga doesn't feel good to you, you don't have to do it! You can always skip the pose altogether and add in a pushup or shift the hips directly back to downward-facing dog. If you do decide to go for it, try incorporating these tips the next time you're on the mat to be more intentional with this strengthening posture—after all, your body is the best guide in your practice.

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