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Ever try a yoga pose and feel like your body just doesn’t make that shape? Erin Motz (a.k.a. the Bad Yogi) has three ideas to help you rock Chaturanga.
Chaturanga Dandasanawas the bane of my existence for, what felt like, a million years. In reality, it was probably more like 6 months. But still, I know you know the feeling. If I could lower my body down without dropping my knees, my chin hit the floor before anything else. If I dropped my knees, I felt like I wasn’t “working” enough in the pose. If I managed to “work” and keep my body long and straight on the way down, my shoulders were shredded by the end of class. Something was definitely going wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. There are a lot of moving parts in this pose, and modifications would have been my BFF if I’d known about them.
We usually see one correct version of Chaturanga, and it looks like this. And then we feel totally inadequate if we can’t just bust this one out every time it comes up in a class. One of the most important things to remember with this pose—and any pose—is modifications are often your best and wisest option. They don’t make you weak, they don’t mean you can’t do something “correctly,” and they don’t make you bad at yoga. Modifications give you the opportunity to find a version of a pose that works well for your body. I use them regularly simply because they sometimes feel better than the traditional way. Lesson of the year in yoga and in life: just do you. Try my three favorite Chaturanga modifications.
Modification 1: Knees Down + Hands Wide
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Pump the brakes—this isn’t right!” I know, I know, but stay with me for a second. If your shoulders are killing you, it’s time to take a step back! Try this on for size: Take the hands a little wider to employ the strength of the muscles in the chest. They’ll add a little extra boost to help the triceps pull their weight and stabilize you as you lower down. This version really gives you a nice set of training wheels while you work up to the “full” pose. Make sure you don’t lose awareness of the rest of your body. Keep your neck in a neutral position, looking in a direction that feels natural for you and the same safe alignment for the rest of your body as you would otherwise.
See also Troubleshoot Your Sun Salute
Modification 2: Knees Down
This is the one we always see, yes, but it’s a great place to start! Hug the elbows in to the ribs and gently draw the shoulders down the back so you don’t pitch them forward and collapse the chest, rounding the upper back. Keep your neck in a neutral position and your body long like you would in a Plank Pose. Engage the abdominals. You’ll know you’re doing this well when your triceps are trembling and your core joins the party.
Also see theYogapedia Video: Chaturanga Dandasana
Modification 3: One Leg Up + One Knee Down
This option is perfect for those times when you feel like dropping the knees eliminates the challenge but your upper body still isn’t ready for the traditional pose. I hurt my shoulder a while back and wanted a little oomph without too much pressure. This is a great modification for those of you with a similar injury or limitation. Cinch the waist in and draw the upper ribcage back, as you would in Plank. Keeping one knee down, simply extend the opposite leg straight back to add a bit more challenge. If your shoulders feel unstable or like they’re taking too much of the load, just drop the lifted knee down again. Be sure to keep your neck in a neutral position, looking in a direction that feels natural for your body.
About Erin Motz
Listen, I’m not your traditional yogi: I’m the carnivorous, red wine, and French cheese-loving type and I teach vinyasa flow. My aim is to keep my classes fun and accessible, both in the studio and online. You won’t hear much Sanskrit, I totally forgive you if you don’t know your asana from your elbow, and I firmly believe that yoga is for everyone, from the kale-loving vegan to the prize-winning deer hunter. I may be a Bad Yogi, but if I’m being totally honest, teaching yoga has been one of my greatest pleasures; I practice to feed my teaching, but I teach to feed my life.