I have this love/hate (Um, okay it’s more like 3/4ths hate) relationship with Chaturanga Dandasana. I cannot do it. I could do it at one time, but it seems like another lifetime ago. I was doing it, then I injured my wrist and shoulder, then I quit yoga. One of the biggest reasons I had put off doing a teacher training was because I thought I needed to do this damn pose.
I’m amused when I think about my obsession with this one pose when there were so many other poses I couldn’t do. In the beginning, I couldn’t lie flat on my back without shoulder or arm pain, but forget that shit, let’s get to the advanced arm balances! I’ve been teaching yoga, and I teach Chaturanga to my students. It’s always been like some dirty little secret hanging in the back of my mind. It sounds extreme, but I thought that if people saw my lack of upper body strength I would lose all credibility. So, I made a goal for myself. Let’s do Chaturanga.
I will be honest. I’m always leery when others make a pose a goal. I’m reminded of a student of mine who really wanted to get into lotus pose. She wanted stretches, warm-ups, and all the “insider tips.” In all honesty, it’s a pose that can really hurt your knees, and may not even be possible depending on your anatomy.
I asked, “What will you have if you can do this pose?” She wanted more flexibility.
What will you have if you have more flexibility? Yoga will be easier.
What will you have if yoga is easier? She paused and smiled, “I just want to be able to do it.”
When I really sit with it, I know that my conflict with Chaturanga is more about my fear of being perceived as weak. I have the perception that mastering this will give me strength, it will show others that I am capable, or it will give me legitimacy. I know in my heart of hearts, that once I achieve this benchmark that another will take its place. Mastering every asana on Earth cannot give me the amount of capability I would like. That’s just a bottomless pit of ego that can never be filled. I’m definitely not saying that yogis should never try to advance their practice. I just think we (me included) can sometimes confuse the vehicle for the destination.
Asana is one of the vehicles of yoga. Yoga is the regulation of modifications of the mind (Yoga Sutra 1.2). That is the destination. Whether I can do Chaturanga or sit crossed legged does not really matter in the actual practice of yoga. This particular pose brings about a lot of thoughts about my legitimacy or capability. My practice is about examining those thoughts, not about upper body strength. As the physical practice advances, I will brush up against more challenge which will ultimately bring about thoughts of these challenges.
This is me doing the closest thing I can to a Chaturanga. It’s a One Kneed Chaturanga. It isn’t perfect. I thought about not sharing this video because it might just give someone the opportunity to tell me how incapable or non-legit I am, and then I realized THAT was my practice. My modified Chaturanga brings up all the inadequate feelings, and then my actual yoga practice is to sit with those feelings and find out just how adequate, capable, and legitimate I am. To make any pose a goal or destination is skipping the entire journey. It’s like buying a new Camaro and then sitting in your garage and waxing it all day. At some point you have to hop in, turn it on, and see where that sweet ride will take you.