OH, DEAR GOD it’s Chaturanga! I have had many many feelings about this pose. Most of those feelings are negative. Many people say that Chaturanga Dandasana is horrible for your shoulders, and that to do this pose is to disable your arms for the rest of eternity. While injury is likely if you do this pose with bad form, the pose in of itself isn’t signing yourself up for a lifetime of pain and useless limbs. This is a difficult pose, and patience and attention is required to execute it properly. If you are like me and your Chaturanga is still a work in progress, I’ve included some tips on how to make yours better and how to modify when you are in class.
It’s really hard to remember all these alignment things while you are still trying to hold your body up with every fiber of your being. So, lets make it easier. Lay on your belly and stick a yoga block under your hips. Activate the thighs and flex the feet so your are resting on the balls of the feet. Bring your hands beside your ribs and press them into the mat while hugging your elbows in to the side of the body. Pull the belly into the spine. Don’t allow your shoulders to roll forward, but don’t push them in together on the back. Keep your shoulders in line with the elbows so that the arm forms a right angle. Hover here. This should give you a good idea on how Chaturanga should feel. If you are working on building your strength to hold this pose, try holding it for 30 seconds or so with the block under your hips.
When you are in class, you can practice all of the upper body alignment with your knees on the ground. The arm is still forming that “L” shape, and you can practice making sure the shoulders don’t round forward. A similar option is Knees, Chest, Chin which is a tiny bit different, but is also a way to safely modify. You also could just stay in High Plank position and leave out the lowering of the body all together. You even could just hang out in Child’s pose until everyone moves onto the balancing portion of the class. The key here is to take care of your body with awareness and integrity.
I have had some minor yoga injuries, and in my experience they were caused by one of the following: trying to do a pose before my body was ready and able to support itself, not stopping when I felt pain, or not taking the time to figure out how I could change the movement to be out of pain. My journey has been learning let go of that need to be impressive or to look like everyone else, and just do what is in the best interest of myself. It sounds egotistical at first, but when you really are clear and realistic about your own limitations, doing what’s best for yourself requires full humility. So, when we rest, we rest not out of laziness, but integrity. We modify poses because we are intelligent, not because we are weak.