Practice Notes: Chaturanga


My practice morphs and evolves according to my needs. It balances what needs equilibrium, amplifies what needs some oomph, and always, always begins with who I am, right now, and what this body and spirit need, in this moment. Some days I don’t move much or at all. Some days, I never leave the floor (see Rising Up or Viparita Karani) This morning: Strong. Methodical. Ready. Willing. Curious. Open. Spacious. Adaptable. Yes, just what I needed. What do you need?

Practice Notes: Chaturanga

For every alignment tip out there, there’s a yoga teacher who will challenge it. These differences of opinion come about because different bodies require different alignments – and we tend to support the ones that we see most often, or the ones that will keep “the majority” of our students safe. The truth is that there is no one correct alignment for this, or any pose. 

Some of my personal yoga students practice this pose, and some of them don’t. It’s not interesting (or appropriate) for every individual. Every one of my students who do, look different in it. Customizing is important. The exact placement and width of your hands will and should vary, based on your body, and any particular concerns you may have, particularly with your wrists or low back. So, let’s explore, those of you who are interested!

To experiment:

  • Come to your knees from Plank
  • Support your torso with a stack of blankets or a bolster if you have one. This will give you time and keep from sapping your energy while you explore the best placement for your body.
  • Experiment with hand placement. A good general guideline to start: with elbows bent (and body supported! Use those blankets!) palms shoulder width apart, outside the widest part of your ribcage. Play with pressing your palms evenly into the floor to begin to transfer your body weight into your hands. Feel ok in your wrists? Ok. Hold for a few breaths and release/rest.
  • Once you find a good starting placement for your hands, focus on pushing into the floor, drawing sternum toward head, sacrum toward heels, and broadening your collarbones. This should result in the very top of your arm bones (the head of the humerus for you anatomy nerds!) subtly spreading away from one another and moving away from the floor.
  • If you can sense your shoulder blades, they should feel both integrated and broad, hugging your ribcage, wingtips following your sacrum toward your heels. This also supports the placement of the arm bones relative to the shoulder joint.
  • The actions of sacrum and sternum moving away from one another should be enough to give you good core support here – but, body awareness is different for everyone and building that awareness is a process. If you are attempting to connect with these two areas and struggling – approach it with kindness, curiosity and openness. And in the meantime, draw in around your waist, navel hugging in.

It takes many practitioners years – literally – to build the necessary strength for safety in this pose – and it’s worth taking your time. Without strong broadening of the chest, core strength and integrated shoulder blades, we put our biceps tendons and our spine (not to mention other areas!) at risk. Ask me how I know! You only have one body, Love, and it’s not worth risking your future comfort for this, or any pose.

Questions? Ask away! Found your perfect placement, or know that there are certain alignments that work, or don’t, for you? Please share!


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