The Chaturanga Dandasana or “yoga pushup” is one of the most challenging poses in a vinyasa yoga class. Most people think they are doing it correctly (because they can’t see what they are doing) but usually they are way off! Here is a step-by-step guide and my tips so that you look good chaturangaing (not really a word) in your next yoga class : )
Steps to perform a correct chaturanga:
- Start in a high plank position (or “top of the pushup”) with your hands directly under your shoulders (vs. wider for a “regular” or chest pushup).
- Engage your core and while keeping a flat back, slowly shift your weight forward just slightly where you come more on the tips of your toes (vs. the balls of your feet).
- As you exhale, slowly bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the ground. This is where it gets tricky. Keep your elbows glued to your sides/rib cage and try to keep your back flat. If you feel your elbows wanting to bend out to the sides, drop to your knees and do a modified version (see tips below).
- You should keep your gaze about 6 inches in front of your mat so you don’t strain your neck.
- Pause at the bottom of the position or when your elbows are at the same height as your shoulders (arms at 90 degrees). Then, as you inhale move to upward dog or press back up to plank.
My top tips:
- This pose is hard and it takes practice! It’s basically a tricep pushup! If you aren’t strong enough to do it correctly, it’s perfectly fine to do it on your knees! Just drop to your knees and perform the same movement as if you were doing a modified or “girl” pushup on your knees.
- If you don’t want to do this on your knees – you can do a mini chaturanga and just drop your body about halfway down but still keep those elbows glued to your sides! Focus more on your core here and get those triceps stronger (see below) so each time you can lower farther down.
- Be careful that you don’t lower too far down to the ground or where your elbows are higher than your shoulders. This is a good way to tear your rotator cuff (not good!). It’s all about the 90 degree angle.
- In yoga we breathe in and out through our noses and for the chaturanga, the proper breathing is to exhale as we lower down and inhale on the way up. But, as a trainer – I’m used to telling people the opposite during pushups: inhale down and exhale up because it helps your muscles perform better. So, if you are struggling with this pose – it’s fine to flip flop the breathing and exhale on the way up…it will actually help give your muscles a little extra push.
- Check out your form in a mirror!
- To get stronger triceps so that this pose is easier – try incorporating some tricep kickbacks, seated tricep dips and overhead triceps extensions into your workout routine 2-3x per week.