Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Try these subtle, yet safe tweaks to Chaturanga if you struggle with the pose.
Learn to Use Your Legs
A common misbelief is that arm balances require tremendous shoulder strength. This misunderstanding embodies the idea of avidya, or nonseeing, a central concept in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Patanjali suggests that avidya is the root cause of all suffering: When we fail to see things accurately, we are inhibited in our ability to act skillfully. The upper body does play a significant role in poses like Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, but learning how to use the legs and a very specific part of the foot—a habit you can start to form in Chaturanga—can have a transformative effect. As you practice, see what happens when you invite the lower body to become a more active participant. Where else in your life might misperception be distorting your experience?
If you are still building arm strength …
TRY lowering onto the knees and coming to the tops of the feet, toes pointed. Maintain a straight line from the knees to the crown of the head, keeping the tailbone moving toward the heels and the lower belly toned, while eliminating any flexion in the hips. As you exhale, bend at the elbows and lower as far as you can while keeping them pinned to your sides.
See also Achieve Uttanasana the Safe Way
If your elbows splay out or your shoulders dip …
TRY making a hip-width loop with a strap. Place the strap just above your elbows, around your upper arms. Come to Plank Pose and lower down as you would for Chaturanga Dandasana, but let the strap catch your ribs and help support you, keeping your elbows pinned to your sides and in line with your shoulders.
See also Hone Your Hovercraft
If you are having trouble engaging your legs …
TRY practicing with the soles of your feet against a wall. Come into Plank Pose with your toes curled and your heels pressing into the wall. Lower down as you would in full Chaturanga Dandasana, keeping your legs and core active as you reach out through the crown of the head.