Chaturanga is one of those poses that comes up often in almost any yoga class. If you attend vinyasa or some type of flow class, you’re probably doing chaturanga almost as often as ashtangis do (I counted up at least 50 in the primary series). Because of the repetition and frequency of this pose, it’s important to do it right so bad habits don’t lead to strain or injury. When done correctly, you also reap the benefits of strength in the arms, back and core.
Here’s what most of us are doing wrong:
- Hands are too close to the shoulders, causing the elbow to bend at a sharper than 90 degree angle.
- Bodies collapse all the way to the ground.
- “Lazy” chaturangas that barely bend at the elbow for a micro-breath before transitioning into upward dog. (I’m totally guilty of this!)
- Elbows that fall outward, instead of hugging against the body.
- Saggy back.
All of these problems can lead to wrist, back and elbow pain rather than making chaturanga a powerful pose that you can draw strength from.
When my teacher stopped me in class one day to give me pointers (ie. corrections) on my form, it made chaturanga immensely more difficult for weeks. Instead of collapsing into the pose, he was asking me to use muscle I didn’t have at the time! I had to build up the necessary strength in my triceps, back and abs to hold my own body weight before it began to feel like it was supposed to.
I really came to love chaturanga during pregnancy. My 25-pound “medicine ball” belly added a new challenge to the pose, and I like to think I avoided giant “bat wings” as I put on weight in the final weeks. It also gave me a ton of arm strength needed to hold my helpless baby in those first couple of months.
I know it can be tiring at first to do the pose correctly, but it really does pay off! Chaturanga is also a foundational pose for many arm balances that require a strong base. I really feel like this is the main reason why I have a relatively easy time getting into bakasana (crow), tittibhasana (firefly) and anything else that requires putting weight into the arms.