Chatu WHAT? Yes, as teachers we do "chatta" lot about this pose. And rightfully so because as practitioners of active yoga we encounter this strength building movement more than others. Otherwise known as Four Limb Staff Pose, this high plank to low plank requires attention to detail. It is a beautiful pose that creates not only strength but it activates our connection to the core of our bodies. Let's break it down so that you can sustain a healthy practice and modify on those days you need to.
As you step or hop back to high push up the traditional sequence is to continue to lower into low push up for our Vinyasa/Sun Salutes. For the sake of alignment though let's pause from above.
Allow your entire body to be flat as a board, (think literally of a plank). In order to do this we need to fire up the body start from the core (around the belly), and all the way in the legs and up through the arms.
Imagine you had a block between the upper thighs, your squeezing it enough to engage the quadriceps and sending your thighbones up. As the intention of opposing gravity, legs activate up however the tailbone tucks down to your heels.
*Tip: Avoid letting your buttocks lift by sticking to the above directions
Your pressing back through your heels and balancing on the tips of the toes.
Now your midsection again. Very important not to drop the belly here. Feel a lift (even if you think you can't~ visualize! Your body is working for you not against you and eventually it responds accordingly over time and practice). Think of the lower ribs in line with your hip bones. You may have to physically look at your body to do this or FEEL it from the inside.
Alright, core now in check~ Let's move to the upper body: Shoulders above the wrist and moving down from your ears, gaze is slightly forward.
If you linger here a moment in your practice and tire in upper plank its best to simply lower the knees to the floor then to collapse in anguish! Trust me in saying that I've experienced this after one too many chaturangas and I've witnessed it throughout the years. You've come this far to refine as the above guidelines so make a pack to yourself not to lose the integrity of your hard work and lower the knees if you need to like below
Okay time to get ahead of ourselves and go for the full pose.
With everything incorporated in upper plank all that's left to do is bend the arms.
Easier said then done! The full posture of Chaturanga Dandasana is to bend your arms ONLY to 90 degree angles.
*Tips for the arms: If you lift weights or remember doing push ups in the gym, this action is done differently. You'll want to keep your elbows pointing straight back when you bend your arms. In upper plank turn the elbow creases to face forward so your already set up to bend the arms. You should feel the upper arm bones graze the side of your body when lowering.
Be mindful that your shoulders don't dip down to the tops of your hands. Keep your gaze forward and head neutral. Play with it. Notice whether you lead with your chin and remind yourself to bring the head to neutral.
In the full posture, your knees never touch the ground nor does your stomach. The pose is practiced on an exhale so move in sync with your breath and I guarantee if you listen closely you should be able to experience a pause at the very end of the pose. That pause is the HOVER. Yes, you are buoyant before the transition to upward dog. The experience and name holds true to Four Limb Staff Pose; hands shoulder distance apart, feet hip distance apart and your balanced.
If your curious on how your Chaturanga is doing either ask a teacher to watch your transition and note if you need to refine or video tape and self study. But as they say, don't take my word for it, go out and try it on for yourself. See you on the mat