One of the things I learned while in my yoga teacher training was to learn to “steal good.” And I do this pretty regularly.
As a teacher myself I take things my teachers do and make them my own. It’s a great way to learn to teach and to share awesome things I learn along the way with my students.
Near the end of my teaching stint at Alameda Athletic Club I asked my students and GFG! readers what their favorite and least favorite yoga poses were.
With that information I created a sequence for my second to last week teaching favorite poses and my last week of teaching least favorite poses.
One of my students told me that Chatarunga Dhandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) was one of her least favorite poses.
This is a pose where many people hurt themselves. It’s a difficult pose and many people don’t and can’t do it correctly, myself included.
From an article on the Yoga Journal website, the writer mentioned being at a meeting with other yoga teachers and “almost all of us had a Chaturanga injury to relate: elbow tendonitis or strained muscles in the upper arm, shoulder, or chest. … Since then, Chaturanga has become even more common in yoga classes around the country because of the popularity of vinyasa practice (flowing from pose to pose without pause). As a result, many students are ‘blowing out’ their shoulders.”
Because I know how to “steal good” I taught my students how to do this pose with a strap, which I learned from my teacher Baxter.
I told a friend about this and she asked for a post. So here it is.
First you take a strap. I don’t recommend using anything but a strap designed for yoga. The strap won’t loosen if it is strapped together correctly.
Loop the strap into a loop about shoulder-width. The strap goes above your elbow creases and right below your breasts. (Make sure the metal or plastic clasp is up front for comfort.) The strap should be tight enough that your arms can’t go wider than shoulder-width. (See top photo.)
With the strap in place get down on your mat into plank pose with knees on mat or off mat (your choice). Shoulders right above wrists, shoulder blades wide, heels pressing away from torso, arms strong, hands even on the mat.
While in plank press your torso forward toward the top of the mat, moving heels forward an inch or two. (Normally in plank you press your heels away from your torso.) This will put your shoulders slightly forward of your hands/wrists.
Bend your elbows and bring your chest down to the strap, resting on the strap while pressing your elbows behind you and keeping them close to your side. Bring your shoulder blades down your back.
Your gaze is slightly in front of your mat keeping your neck long.
Yes, you do have a strap digging into your arms and chest. It isn’t exactly comfortable. But it makes the pose doable.
Try the pose a few times with the strap. Then if you want, try it without. It takes a lot of strength and is much more difficult.
If you are in a class that is more of a flow you won’t have time to get the strap on. So what I have learned is you don’t have to go down as far as the teacher tells you. I only slightly bend my elbows and go down until right before my back starts to sway.
You can also work with the strap in your home practice and work to get stronger in this pose.
You also have the option to not do Chatarunga when requested in a class and come down to your belly and come into Low Bhujangasana (Low Cobra Pose) and then push back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).
I am hoping my description of how to do this pose with a prop was helpful. If it isn’t making sense, please let me know. It may not be clicking with you or maybe my description needs work.
I always want feedback from my readers.