June 30, 2015 Focus123

Building Core Strength with Chaturanga

Building core abdominal strength provides many benefits. It helps posture, relieves back pain, and helps create the six pack. We often begin a class warming up with Sun Salutations. One of the poses in that sequence is Chaturanga Dandasana, Four Limbed Staff Pose. But just doing the pose like most people do in classes does not build abdominal strength and can be harmful. Along with headstand, handstand and shoulder stands chaturanga has been labelled a dangerous yoga pose. I still struggle to unlearn patterns developed from years of doing chaturanga in a way which perpetuates patterns in the shoulders and upper back which leads to stress, neck pain and overall discomfort.

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When I break down the pose in class often people react that they can’t figure out how to generate the movement from their core muscles. After a few attempts many suddenly activate the core. They laugh and grin and remark that it’s so much harder then they ever knew. Some come into the pose for one breath and then quickly come down. Doing chaturanga wrong is still work – and can make you sweat. I have learned over time there is no relation between sweat, work and endorphins and overall balance and alignment. Only with precise work can you begin to use the abs in this pose. It’s not natural and it is quite difficult, but it is achievable and feels amazing once you begin to find it. In the video below Darby demonstrates two ways to prepare for Chaturanga.

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Forearm Balance

Lie down on your stomach.
Come onto your forearms and make a fist of your palms.
Curl under your toes and push out through your heels.
Lift your ribs, then lift the waist.
Hold for 10 breaths.

Slowly Finding Chaturanga

Lie down on your stomach.
Bring your hands back underneath the elbows, not the shoulders.
Lift your shoulders to the same height as your elbows.
Press the palms down to stabilize the upper body.
Lift the waist.

There’s a tendency to further lift the neck or upper body and shoulders instead of the waist since that’s a lot easier. Try and keep the upper body stabilized and just lift from the waist. Feel the difference.

How’s your chaturanga? Try practice this exercise 3 to 5 times a week for a few weeks and feel how much your chaturanga can change. It will effect not only your chaturanga but basic standing, walking, and almost every pose. Try it!

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