How’s Your Chaturanga?

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A proper sun salutation in a vinyasa style yoga class is a key element to building strength, flexibility and balance in our practice.  However it is easy to forget the basics as we flow, moving from point A to point B.  If we move too quickly and lose focus on appropriate muscular engagement it can become a mechanical, unthinking motion which simply serves to get to the next pose.  One of the most critical pieces of the sun salutation and one that is often most challenging is the chaturanga to upward facing dog element.  It is very easy for beginners and even more experienced yogis to deprive themselves of the strength to be gained in each and every class with this important skill.  Take a closer look at your chaturanga and see how you are doing!

1.  Beginning in high plank pose, position your shoulders over your hands and align your body in a long straight line from shoulders to ankles.  Keep your core muscles engaged, thighs inwardly drawn and bring your shoulder blades down your back.

2.  Keep this straight line as you slowly lower to low plank.  Do not allow your head or hips to  lower before the rest of your body!

3.  Pause here briefly and hover just inches above your mat.  Roll over your toes, keeping your heels pointing upwards as you lead your heart forward into upward facing dog.  Not just upward but also forward!  Think about pushing the floor away with the balls of your feet and your toes, this is where you get the forward motion – from your feet!  Keep the legs actively engaged, and think of hugging into your center.

If this is challenging for you, build the strength needed for this posture with the following exercise.  Start in high plank pose as described above and begin to lower your body as far as you can while also keeping it level with the floor, until the point at which you can no longer maintain proper form.  Stay strong through your core and do not allow your head or lower back to collapse downward.  At this point gently place your knees on the floor and continue to lower all the way down.  Do not allow your knees to support you entirely, but continue to support your body weight mostly with your arms throughout the entire movement.   Focus on lowering extra slowly.  Use your knees to help get you back into high plank and repeat this process several times.  Gradually you will be able to lower further and further down while remaining in a long straight line.

Ask your instructor to check your form and make corrections to your alignment so that you are getting the most out of your work.

Once you are performing the proper chaturanga you will make tremendous gains in strength and get much more out of your vinyasa classes!

Most importantly have fun out there, yogis!

Anne Dries is the founder and owner of Buddha Nest Yoga.

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