What does it take to master the pickup-jumpback to Chaturanga Dandasana? Upper body, hip flexor, and core strength combined with bravery and belief in oneself, says Los Angeles vinyasa flow teacher Alexandria Crow. If that sounds like a tricky combo, it is. "I remember learning to do this, and for a very, very long time it seemed like nothing was happening. I was glued to the floor," Crow says. "Then, one day, something clicked—my muscles were finally strong and stable enough."
On the basis of her own experience, Crow recommends patience and persistence as you practice. For instance, to press into Lolasana (Pendant Pose), her recommended first step is to lift one foot at a time. Crow emphasizes the importance of moving slowly when you're building strength. "You have to move at half the pace that you want to. You also have to resist the urge to let go of muscle control and crash onto the floor. When you control the very last second of every one of these poses, you start to dive into the unique strength it takes to do the pickup-jumpback," she says.
Once you get a taste of this yoga move, you'll feel stronger and lighter in all of your arm balances, and you'll enjoy that magic moment of accomplishment. As Crow says, "There is nothing that feels better then working hard to accomplish something and finally having it happen. If you practice diligently, with earnestness, and you believe in yourself, one day this pose will happen, and that moment will feel fantastic."
To Begin: Come into Balasana (Child's Pose) with your arms shoulder-width apart, extended straight out in front of you. Press your hands down into the mat, keeping your shoulder blades wide and your outer arms hugging in. As you exhale, observe how your navel naturally pulls toward your spine.
To Finish: This sequence is very heavy on hip flexor and core strength, so pairing it with a mild backbend will leave you balanced. Take Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) 3 times for 8 breaths each. End with a simple reclined twist and Savasana (Corpse Pose).
1. Plank Pose
Come to Plank Pose. Align your shoulders directly over your wrists. Press your hands firmly down into the mat and hug your outer arms in toward each other. Press the part of your spine between your shoulder blades slightly up toward the ceiling. At the same time, pull your breastbone forward to keep your collarbones wide. Bring your navel in toward your spine so that your low back is supported. Stay here for 10 breaths. Exhale and press back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).
2. Knee to Nose in Plank
Inhale and shift back to Plank Pose. On your next inhale, pick your right foot up off the mat. Exhale, and round your spine as you draw your knee in toward your chest. Keep your hips low and in line with the rest of your body. Round your upper spine toward the ceiling as much as possible. Bring your right thigh close to your chest and your right heel close to your sitting bone. Repeat on the other side and then press back to Down Dog.
3. Chaturanga Dandasana: Four-Limbed Staff Pose (pushup variation)
Inhale to Plank Pose. Keep your collarbones and shoulder blades wide. Press your hands down as you hug your outer arms in. Draw your navel toward your spine to support your low back. Keeping your body in a straight line, exhale and bend your elbows 90 degrees. Gaze slightly forward, keeping your neck long. Inhale, and press back to Plank, and then exhale as you press back to Down Dog. Repeat 5-8 times, ending in Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
4. Paripurna Navasana: Full Boat Pose
Hop to a seated position. Bend your knees, and place your feet on the floor. Sit up tall on your sitting bones and lift your chest. Grab the backs of your thighs and shift the weight back just enough that your feet lift off the floor. Then straighten your legs, spread your toes wide, and reach your arms forward. Stay for 5 breaths and repeat 5 times, resting in a seated position between repetitions.
5. Ardha Navasana: Half Boat Pose
Inhale and return to Navasana. As you exhale, lower your legs and chest toward the floor to Ardha Navasana. Keep your shoulders up off the floor, your belly engaged, knees straight. Reach through your toes. Inhale, and leading with your chest, come back up to Navasana. Repeat this sequence 5 times. Then step back to Downward-Facing Dog.
6. Lolasana: Pendant Pose
Lower onto your shins with your knees touching. Place a block at medium height alongside each leg, halfway be-tween your knees and toes. Press your palms firmly into the blocks and straighten your elbows. Round your back, pull your navel toward your spine, and bring your thighs up to your chest. Keep your hips low, your knees together, and the tops of your feet on the floor. Holding this position, pick up your right foot and bring your right heel as close to your sitting bone as possible. Hold for 5 breaths and switch legs. Repeat the pose one more time, trying to pick up both feet off the mat—even if just for a moment. Move the blocks to the side and press back to Downward-Facing Dog.
7. Dandasana: Staff Pose (variation)
Hop to a seated position and come into Dandasana. Place your hands slightly in front of your hips, fingers spread wide, palms pressing down firmly, and elbows straight. Press your hands down so much that your sitting bones lift off the mat. Round your back slightly, pressing your hands down even more, and pull your navel back toward your spine. With your legs straight, pick up your right foot for 3 breaths. Set it down and repeat on the left side. Repeat again, this time trying to lift both feet off the mat simultaneously.
8. Utpluthih (variation)
Sit in Dandasana with blocks next to your hips. Cross your shinbones and pull your thighs toward your chest. Glue your heels to your sitting bones, pulling yourself into a tiny package. Press your hands down into the blocks, straighten your elbows, and lift your hips and feet off the floor. Take 5 breaths and then rest. Repeat 2 more times.
9. Pickup-Jumpback on blocks
Set up the same way you did in the previous pose: shins crossed, thighs glued to your chest, heels pulled in to your sitting bones. Press your palms into the blocks and lift your hips and feet off the floor, rounding your spine. Once you're airborne, stay in this compact shape—it's the key to the pose. Begin bending your elbows the same way you did in Chaturanga. As you bend your elbows, your feet will begin to clear the ground between your hands. Maintain a rounded, compact shape. Once your feet have cleared the ground and your elbows are bent to 90 degrees, broaden your chest and trust yourself. In a quick but controlled motion, straighten your legs and shoot them back, hip-distance apart, landing in Chaturanga. Inhale to Upward-Facing Dog; exhale, and press back to Downward-Facing Dog.
Watch a video demonstration of this pose.