Chaturanga Dandasana is a popular yoga pose, or asana, that’s often included in Sun Salutations and Vinyasa yoga classes.
In Sanskrit, “Chaturanga Dandasana” translates to “four-limbed staff pose.”
It’s also referred to as low plank and is often shortened to Chaturanga.
Read on to discover the benefits of Chaturanga Dandasana, as well as some pro tips and modifications that’ll help you add it to your routine.
Chaturanga Dandasana is beneficial for your entire body, since it requires a lot of muscle activation and strength.
Easy to modify
While this pose requires a certain amount of strength and skill to perform correctly, you can modify it to suit many fitness levels. Practicing Chaturanga helps you build power, even if you’re unable to do the full expression of the pose.
Strengthens your back and core
Similar to plank exercises, this asana aligns your whole body and builds strength in your erector spinae, the muscles on either side of your spine. This helps improve core strength, posture, and stability.
Mastering Chaturanga can help you build functional strength. This aids you in everything from everyday sitting and moving to more complicated movements, such as in a kickboxing class.
Practicing yoga in general may also help to relieve back pain, increase flexibility, and improve mental well-being.
Improve body awareness
Improving the alignment of your body can enhance your body awareness as you learn to correct imbalances and uneven weight distribution.
On an energetic level, Chaturanga Dandasana is associated with the third chakra, called Manipura. Chakras are energy centers located along your spine, from its base to the crown of your head.
Located in your solar plexus, the third chakra is linked to the strength of your self-worth and individual identity. Balancing this energy center is said to increase your confidence, determination, and courage.
Muscles used for Chaturanga Dandasana
Chaturanga targets these muscles:
- serratus posterior
- serratus anterior
- erector spinae
- core muscles
You can modify the pose to get the form and technique down before moving on to the full pose.
Use a wall
If you’re a complete beginner, get the hang of how this pose feels by doing it upright, standing against a wall.
To do this:
- Stand a few inches from a wall.
- Press your palms into the wall, just below your shoulders and keep your elbows tucked against your sides.
- Engage your muscles as though you’re pushing yourself away from the wall.
- At the same time, engage your shoulder and chest muscles to counter the movement.
- Tuck your pelvis down and under slightly.
- Raise your upper chest slightly.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
Perfect your plank
Most people find it easier to do a high plank than a low plank. Feel free to experiment with some of these high plank variations as you’re building your strength and alignment.
Use your knees
From a plank, lower your knees to the floor. Then practice lowering your upper body so it’s a few inches above the floor. Focus on keeping your elbows drawn in toward your sides and notice which upper body muscles you engage.
Gradually increase the duration of the pose. You can also practice lifting yourself back up to a plank.
Make a lifted landing spot
Place a flat cushion, folded blanket, or block under your chest. As you lower into Chaturanga, rest your chest on the prop.
Gradually you can work on putting less pressure on your chest. Once you’re able to hover just above the prop for at least 30 seconds, try the pose without it.
Save your wrists
If you experience wrist pain, you can experiment with a few strategies to ease discomfort and redistribute your body weight.
First, spread your fingers as wide as possible, and press into all of your finger pads.
You can also try turning your fingers out to the side slightly.
Instead of compressing your weight into your wrists, feel a line of energy moving from your wrists and back into your elbows.
Train your arms with a strap
Loop a yoga strap so it’s as wide as your shoulders. Place it just above your elbows. As you lower into Chaturanga from a plank, the strap will support your arms and prevent your elbows from splaying out to the sides. It will also prevent you from lowering your shoulders too far down.
Typically, you perform Chaturanga Dandasana during a Sun Salutation sequence. You move from a plank into Chaturanga before flowing into Upward-Facing Dog or Cobra.
It’s important to opt for Cobra Pose if you don’t have the strength to do Upward-Facing Dog or if Up Dog doesn’t feel good for your lower back.
When you’re learning Chaturanga, you can practice it on its own before incorporating it into a sequence.
Steps for Chaturanga Dandasana
Follow these steps to perform Chaturanga:
- Come into a high plank by positioning your wrists directly under your shoulders and maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
- On an exhale, bend your elbows and lower your shoulders so they’re at the same height as your elbows.
- Tightly squeeze your elbows in toward your body.
- Keep your upper body and legs a few inches above the floor.
- Gaze down or lift your head slightly.
- Broaden across your chest and upper back.
- On an exhale, press back up into a plank or Downward-Facing Dog. Or, drop your knees down and rest in Child’s Pose.
To make sure you’re doing the pose correctly, here are alignment pointers to keep in mind. Working on each of these will help you strengthen small and big muscles needed to perform this pose with greater ease:
- Distribute your weight evenly between your right and your left sides.
- Pull your shoulders away from your head and neck to avoid holding a shrugged-shoulders posture.
- Prevent your chest from collapsing by broadening across your chest and shoulders.
- Don’t allow your shoulders to drop below the height of your elbows.
- In the lowered position, keep your hips and shoulders at the same height.
- If you can’t lower your shoulders to elbow height, you can keep them slightly higher than your elbows.
- Your elbows should point straight back instead of to the sides.
- Keep your upper arms parallel to the floor.
- Lengthen your leg muscles by pressing back through your heels.
Certain yoga poses will help to build the strength that enables you to do Chaturanga Dandasana. You can work on these poses and their modified versions to build up your Chaturanga.
These poses include:
You can use Chaturanga Dandasana to build the power to perform challenging poses that require a lot of arm strength. This includes Crow, Handstand, and Headstand.
- To maintain alignment, focus on using your arm, core, and leg muscles.
- Keep your shoulders and hips in line.
- Don’t allow your low back to sway down to the floor.
- Draw the energy of your pubic bone and belly button up toward your chest.
As you practice this pose, notice how your shoulders feel. It’s common for people to experience shoulder pain, inflammation, or even injuries from doing Chaturanga Dandasana incorrectly.
Talk with your doctor or a certified yoga instructor if you have any existing injuries or medical conditions.
Avoid Chaturanga Dandasana if you:
- have carpal tunnel syndrome
- have high blood pressure
- are prone to headache
- have intense pain — especially in your shoulders, back, and wrists — during the pose
You may also want to avoid this pose while pregnant.
Chaturanga Dandasana is a wonderful addition to your yoga flow. It improves overall body strength, stability, and alignment.
Feel free to modify this asana to suit your individual needs and remember that it’s in no way necessary to any yoga practice.
Keep in mind that the true essence of yoga involves an inner stillness and peace that may not be flashy enough to be Instagram-worthy but will help you move through your daily life with strength, grace, and ease.
Emily Cronkleton is a certified yoga teacher and has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Thailand. Her passion for yoga has laid the foundation for a healthy and inspired life. Her teachers and practice have helped shape her life experience in many ways. You can follow her on Instagram.