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Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) is so pivotal to many yoga flow practices but it’s often misunderstood. This foundational pose requires thoughtful alignment—it’s not merely a push-up.
To create proper alignment in Chaturanga, you need to activate muscles from the front to the back of your body, and tighten your elbows close to your ribs, rather than letting them splay outward. This allows your chest to stay up in a hover. You also need to energize your legs and arms and activate your abdominals and shoulders to stay stable in the pose.
“Maintaining alignment in the shoulders and chest while bearing weight is as challenging as it is crucial,” says Natasha Rizopoulos, a senior teacher with Down Under School of Yoga.
The best way to access this pose—and every pose—is the one that works best for your body. There are plenty of modifications that you can access to meet you wherever you are on your long and pleasant journey with Four-Limbed Staff Pose.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose basics
Sanskrit: Chaturanga Dandasana (chaht-tour-ANG-ah don-DAHS-anna)
Pose Type: Arm Balance
Target Area: Full Body
Why We Love It: “I am certainly not the first woman to approach Four-Limbed Staff Pose with an attitude somewhere between ‘I don’t think so…’ and ‘ugh,’ There was no way I had the arm strength to do this thing that is really a push-up in yoga disguise,” says yoga teacher Cyndi Lee. “Every time I tried lowering down into this position—which isn’t just a shape but also an action—I collapsed in a heap. Plop! Eventually I remembered that the point of yoga is to experience union, integration, relationship. By focusing solely on my arm strength (or lack thereof), I was doing this pose purely as a physical exercise rather than a moving expression of yoga. So I started to work my legs, to lengthen my spine, to gain awareness of where my head was and what my feet were doing. Almost overnight I could do this thing. I could do it over and over and it became so much fun.”
Four-Limbed Staff Pose boosts energy, fights fatigue, and builds confidence and empowerment. It also strengthens your core, shoulders, arms, wrists, thighs, and ankles.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- From Plank Pose, align your shoulders slightly ahead of your wrists and come onto the balls of your feet.
- Push back through your heels to engage your quadriceps as you reach your sternum forward, creating a straight, taut line of energy from the crown of your head through your feet.
- On an inhalation, draw your shoulders and the tops of your thighs up and away from the floor. Pull your lower body up and in, and release your tailbone toward the floor.
- On an exhalation, bend your elbows and slowly lower your body (keeping it as straight as a plank of wood) until your elbows are at around 90 degrees. Keep your elbows directly over your wrists and drawn in against your sides. Press your hands firmly into the floor.
- Bring your gaze to the floor, about 6 inches in front of you, and continue to lower until your shoulders are at the same height as your elbows.
- Continue to reach through the heels, sternum, and crown of your head as you breathe.
- To come out of the pose, exhale and lower down to your belly or push back up to Plank Pose.
Teaching Chaturanga Dandasana
- Remind students to use their arm strength in this posture. They should engage their biceps and triceps, taking both elbows into a right angle to the best of their ability.
- Advise students to stay centered in their hover, and avoid shifting sideways. Tipping their hips slightly forward while engaging their gluteal and abdominal muscles will help keep the trunk solid.
Variation: Four-Limbed Staff Pose with knees down
Try this pose with your knees down on the floor, especially if you are building arm strength. Maintain an engaged core.