4 POSES TO HELP NAIL CHATURANGA DANDASANA
THE DREADED VINYASA
Chaturanga Dandasana is a hard pose. Well it’s not really one posture but a series of postures linked together. It requires strength. It requires correct breathing. It requires backbending. And it requires PRACTICE.
In a vinyasa flow class you might do 10-20 Chaturangas and you’ll probably do hundreds of these wrong and feel MEGA frustrated. Try not to rush yourself. Think about the yamas of yoga (these are the don’ts of yoga) Ahimsa, which means non-harming and Satya, which means non-lying. Don’t push yourself to injury and be honest with yourself when skipping modifications.
This pose IS achievable but you need to take the time building up the strength and awareness of body to get you there. If you practice yoga once a week and therefore practice your Chaturanga once a week it might take you longer but if you work on some of these poses to build strength between and practice with modifications to build strength you’ll get there faster.
- MINDSET MATTERS: Don’t imprint on your mind that you can’t do this pose OR you’ll never be able to do it. You’re muscles will give up the second your mind does. Every time you go into your vinyasa be positive and work on a small aspect of the pose. Maybe your plank or small press up.
- ARCHITECTURE: We don’t need to be killing ourselves in every posture. You know when you look at a yogi who has been practicing for years and they look light as a feather when they move? Well that’s because they’re helping their muscles in poses by stacking the joints. When we stack our joints the bones take a lot of the weight and our muscles don’t have to work as hard.
- DON’T BE A DEAD WEIGHT: Ever tried to pick up someone when they’re asleep or WAY too drunk? It’s impossible. They’re super heavy and difficult to move. But that same person awake, alert and engaging their muscles becomes lighter and easier to move. This is the same of your body as you move through postures. When you engage your muscles through poses the body works as one and helps itself making the overall effort feel less cumbersome.
This posture is actually more challenging than it looks.
The reason for this is it’s an inversion which means our head is lower than our heart and this can be a challenge for many. Also a lot of your weight is transferred into your hands and let’s be honest folks we just don’t spend a lot of our day walking around on our hands.
Downward dog has heaps of benefits on it’s own such as stretching the low back, hamstrings, lower legs and feet.
This is often the start and end of the vinyasa pose or full Chaturanga. If your downward dog is wrong or the foundations are out then you’re starting off in a position that’s going to make the rest of your Chaturanga more difficult. Most people start their Down Dog too short which means when they come forward into plank their bums are too high and their shoulders don’t stack over their wrists.
Downward dog is a pose of strength. It takes back, shoulder and arm muscles to push the body into its proper position for Downward Dog. The deeper you want to stretch, the more you need to push through your upper body muscles and the more you work on isometric strength. THIS IS NEEDED IN CHATURANGA DANDASANA.
1) To come into your downward dog you can begin in a kneeling position on your mat with hands directly under shoulders, fingers spread wide.Then tuck your toes and send your bum up to the sky.
2) As you send your bum high you want to engage your abdominals (belly) as you push your body up off the mat. Imagine your belly button is being pulled up to the sky, you should feel in suck in towards your spine.
3) Activate your hands pressing the whole surface of the fingers into the mat. This will alleviate some of the pressure and weight in your wrists.
4) Forget about the heels touching the floor. Instead lift onto the balls of the feet and slightly bend the knees. As you do this press through your hands moving your chest gently toward your thighs and then allow your heels to gently move toward the floor.
5) if you have tight hamstrings keep a soft bend in the knees and let your neck and head relax.
6) Avoid walking the hands and feet together. Measure your downward dog by floating forward into a plank position. Here line up the shoulders over the wrists and the ball of the foot under the ankle the best your can. Push the bum back up to the sky and try to keep your hands and feet where they are.
This is another isometric hold which means the muscles are firing and activating but you are static and unmoving. These static poses that build strength are going to help you in all other yoga postures as well.
Plank is hard. Every time I teach I see plank being done without proper engagement of muscles. Don’t let it frustrate you – it just takes a long time to get right. ‘Right’ doesn’t mean perfection and a pretty posture – it means that the right muscles are engaging to protect and strengthen the spine.
WHY: The Plank is one of the best postures for strengthening your core and giving your strength confidence. Many physios will say that development of strength in isometric holds like plank create less risk of injury or straining tendons or soft tissue. A plank is a core body move that strengthens all abdominal and low back muscles as well as arms, shoulders, back and chest muscles.
1) Start in Table Top position on all fours. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders.
2) Tighten abdominals and push into your hands so the space between the shoulders raises and your belly button draws inward.
3) Tuck on toe and straighten the leg and then the other so both knees are off the mat. Keep pushing into the hands, gaze down between the thumbs, draw the lowest rib cage inward and squeeze your butt! BREATHE!
TRICEP PRESS UP
When people have been going to the gym for long periods of time and are suddenly faced with Chaturanga Dandasana they really struggle with the transition for a tricep pushup. In our vinyasa we keep the arms close to the body and work the back of the arm, the tricep. Elbows out to the side in a press up is no more
WHY: Gaining strength in the triceps in the shoulders is fundamental to so many other yoga postures. If you are wanting to improve or work on arm balances or headstands strengthening and controlling the shoulder girdle is key.
1)Keeping the body straight, glutes engaged and bottom ribs drawn in start to exhale.
2) Keep the neck straight and looking down.
3) Turn the bony bit of the elbow backwards and shift the shoulders slightly forwards. You want to keep your elbow above the wrist as much as possible as you lower.
4) bend the elbow and lower the body until your shoulders are in line with the bone of the elbow (avoid going lower than this to not strain the rotator cuff) Make sure the hips aren’t sagging, if they are drop the knees and work on arm strength.
UPWARD FACING DOG
In Up Dog we work on stretching and opening the anterior (front) side on the body. You will want to be familiar with Low Cobra and Cobra pose before learning how to do Upward Dog. This can be an intense back bend if you haven’t spent time warming up.
WHY: We spend so much of our time hunched over a phone or sitting at a computer that leaves us with rounded shoulders and tight chests. Up Dog opens up the muscles that are generally shortened and tightened by bad posture and helps to open up the front line of the body. It stretches the chest, abdominals and shoulders as well as strengthens the arms, upper back muscles and glutes.
1) Starting on the ground lying face down on your mat, place your hands directly under your shoulders.
2) Point your toes so the tops of your feet are on the mat, avoid the toes staying tucked under as this will crunch up in the lower back.
3) Press through your hands and the tops of your feet raising your body and legs up off the ground until the arms are straight. Keep the elbows from locking and the shoulders from hunching.
4) Keep your neck relaxed and long and quads tight as you hold and breathe, try to let the hips drop and the heart pull forward.
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- Stronger shoulders
- Understanding of different modifications of a vinyasa
- Empowered in your knowledge
- Injury free movement
- Ways to stretch sore muscles
- and a whole lot more!
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