We’re thrilled to partner with our friends at YogaWorks to bring you the YogaWorks Teacher Training Tip of the Week. Each week, our friends from YogaWorks TT will break down some of the most challenging poses, as well as shed light on the basics, for all of us to enjoy. Like what you see? Click here for more info on YogaWorks’ Teacher Training programs.
Chaturanga Dandasana, or “four-limbed staff pose,” is a deceptively simple posture that’s often referred to as a yoga push-up, as it reinforces our core stability and develops upper-bodystrength.
When practiced mindfully, the central “staff”—the spine—remains stable and straight as it does in Plank pose. If our core trunk muscles are weak, however, the belly tends to sink faster than the pelvis, compressing the lumbar spine. If the shoulders dip far below the elbows, the shoulder girdle may bunch up around the neck, and the elbows, wrists, and shoulders are at risk of repetitive stress injury. Executed without a clear sense of internal alignment, Chaturanga is basically a yoga belly flop!
In a YogaWorks Teacher Training, we analyze key yoga postures such as Chaturanga and discuss how to modify them for different body types and experience levels. As this week’s video shows, one way to make Chaturanga more accessible is to lower the knees to the ground before lowering the torso. This modification effectively “shortens the Plank” – i.e., the length of torso that students will need to carry as they bend the elbows—thereby isolating the work of the upper torso, arms, and shoulders. Specifically, this posture requires strong triceps, and a delicate balance between the muscles that protract and retract the shoulder blades. As students gradually develop greater upper-body strength and core stability, the knees lift off the ground, while practicing this posture.
Once a student is stable and comfortable in full Chaturanga, it’s time for jumpbacks! Jumpbacks are an integral part of the Sun Salutations in a typical YogaWorks class. As seen in our weekly video, a creative way of learning the jumpback is a technique that we call the “hammock slide.” Utilizing a wooden floor, the student places a shoulder-width strap just above the elbows, and steps both feet together on a neatly-folded blanket. Placing the hands on the ground—shoulder width apart and parallel—our student bends both knees, keeps the sternum reaching forward, and slowly slides her legs backward while bending the elbows into Chaturanga. The upper body eventually rests in the hammock—maintaining a 90-degree angle of the elbow—and allows our student to focus on engaging the abdominal muscles so that the pelvis stays lifted and the lower back supported. Check out the video and give it a try!
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About David Kim
Yoga came to me only when I was ready to receive it. As a New York journalist fresh out of Brown University, I dabbled in a few yoga classes, and continued to do so after moving to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. But the yoga didn’t take hold right away. As time passed, the movie business slowly dimmed my creative spark, and daily gym workouts had forged a muscular armor, stunting my freedom to move and breathe. I felt stuck. Something needed to shift, and I approached an Ashtanga-based yoga class at my gym with new eagerness. It was a revelation! The deliberate breathing and foreign-sounding postures slowly pried open my body, releasing years of unconscious tension and stress. When tears welled up in my eyes during a seated hip opener, it dawned on me: yoga went far beyond the body—it connected to my emotions, my intellect, even a long-buried sense of Spirit. Focusing heavily on asana, I pushed my physical practice to its limit, tearing my knee cartilage, thanks to over-ambition and sloppy alignment. Good timing led me to the YogaWorks Teacher Training, taught by Lisa Walford and Annie Carpenter, my soon-to-be mentors. Their depth of knowledge and life experience redefined my practice, literally from the ground up. The philosophy and meditative practices spoke to my innate beliefs about a true Self—or universal Consciousness—that exists beyond our narrow ego identities. I began to view yoga as a lifetime practice, one that transcends fitness or postures. Visit my website here.