After almost seven years of practicing yoga and going through the 200-hour certified teaching program, I still couldn't do a proper Chaturanga Dandasana. If you've done much yoga yourself, you know how challenging Chaturanga can be. The pose is a staple of Vinyasa-style classes and is usually done as part of a Sun Salutation sequence. To get into Chaturanga, you lower your body from a high plank position until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, with your arms hugged close to your ribs. From there, you lift your chest and drop your hips to transition into an Upward Facing Dog.
Compared to other movements in a Sun Salutation, a Chaturanga would seem simple enough — but by combining elements of a plank and push-up, it challenges a number of muscle groups (your core, legs, arms, back, and chest), and for me, it felt nearly impossible. I knew how much my upper body could benefit from getting the pose down, so I made it my goal to get better.
How I Finally Mastered Chaturanga
After I broke down the movement, I realized it was my upper body that needed to pull its weight (pun intended). So, I began to do targeted strength-building exercises focused on those muscle groups, including the biceps, triceps, and deltoids, as well as the trapezius muscle in my upper back. My routine consisted of bicep curls and triceps dips, in addition to weighted arm circles and rows, about twice a week. I also chose to take yoga classes I knew would incorporate more Chaturangas as a transition between poses, like advanced Vinyasa and Ashtanga classes.
Within about two months of making these changes, I found myself getting closer and closer to that ideal 90-degree bend in the elbows during Chaturanga. I also noticed other poses were easier for me. I could stay in Down Dog longer and hold my arms up for an extended period of time in Chair pose. I could stretch my fingers further away from each other in Warrior II and found I was closer than ever to getting in a headstand without the help of a wall to stabilize me. Best of all, I found my Sun Salutations more satisfying. My practice has gotten so much better — and if I can do it, you can, too.