This is How You Do Chatarunga
One student described it as feeling like a 'out of control worm'.
Others make a whole new pose that is a hybrid somewhere between chatarunga and downward facing dog.
And some of us rush through it because - in all honesty - it's a hard pose!
Misaligned chatarungas are repeat offenders that can sneak into your yoga practice and cause injury over time. Chatarunga dandasana is a challenging pose that (due to timing) can be difficult to break down step by step in a yoga class. It requires a combination of core stability, tricep strength and shoulder stability. The steps below will set you up with the foundations of the pose. Take this into class and practice it mindfully. You will build up the strength needed to sustain this pose (and save your shoulders in the process).
1. Start in plank pose. Bring your feet hip distance apart and stack your heels over the toes. Engage your legs. Bring your wrists underneath your shoulders and spread your fingers wide. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and towards each other. As you do this, hug your arms in towards each others and turn your heart forward towards the front of the room, broadening through your clavicles. Keeping this, lift your hip bones upwards towards your lower ribs, drawing the tailbone towards the heels and feeling the lower belly engage. Commit to this lower belly engagement, it will see you through chatarunga.
2. Inhale and move forward until you are on the tips of your toes and your shoulders are over the line of the wrist creases. Look forward to keep the length in the spine moving through to the crown of the head. Keep the actions of the heart shining forward to broaden your collar bones. Maintain the arms hugging in as the shoulder blades draw back and down. Reaffirm your commitment to your lower belly engagement as the hip bones gently lift towards the lower ribs.
3. As you exhale, slowly begin to bend your elbows straight back behind you. (Avoid bending the elbows outwards - think of a bird tucking its wings snugly to the side of its body). As you continue to bend your elbows straight back behind you, they will be close enough that they can brush the sides of your rib cage as you lower down.
4. Stop when your shoulders are at the line of your elbows. Create right angles with both arms by keeping the shoulders in line with the elbows and the elbows neatly stacked on top of the wrists. (Moving forward to the tips of your toes in plank pose aids this alignment. If you lower straight from plank without moving forward first, your elbows will be behind your wrists making it feel like you are collapsing into the pose).
5. Smile! You made it! Full Chatarunga. Arms at ninety degree angles. Lower belly switched on, with the hip bones gently lifted toward the lower ribs, allowing for the pelvis to be neutral. Energy pressing out through the heels. Body as strong as a (low) plank.
But wait! What if you can't keep your knees lifted as you lower towards the full version of this pose?
No problem, here's your modification:
1. Start in plank pose as described above in step 1.
2. Inhale and shift forward to the tips of your toes, bringing the shoulders over the line of the wrist creases as outlined in step 2 above.
3. Keeping the hip bones lifting towards the lower ribs to engage the belly, gently bring both knees onto the mat.
3. As you exhale, slowly bend your elbows straight back behind you, as described in step 3 above, with the heart shining forward and the collarbones broad. If possible, stop when your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Hold here to build strength. Inhale through the nose.
4. As you exhale, keeping the elbows tight to the ribs, slowly lower yourself to the mat to release the pose.
5. Smile! You made it.
Follow the steps above and you will no longer feel like a 'out of control worm' - although if you do, remember that the worm happens when the pelvis leads the pose by dropping to the ground ahead of the elbows bending. Stabilise your pelvis in plank pose and keep this as you bend your elbows towards chatarunga (see step 1 ).
If you feel like your moving through the chatarunga-downdog hybrid, it means the butt is too high and the shoulders are dipping too low. Stabilise the pelvis in plank (see step 1) and keep this stabilisation as you bend your elbows. Stop your chatarunga when your shoulders are in line with your elbows to prevent excess pressure across the front on the shoulder joints (see step 2).
And if your rushing through chatarunga because it's hard, you've had a long day and you can't wait for savasana - breathe and lower your knees to the ground to modify. A modified chatarunga is a stronger chatarunga and worth far more than the misaligned versions that can creep in when we are tired and not paying attention.