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Your Body in Chaturanga

Yoga anatomy expert Leslie Kaminoff provides insight into how the body’s muscles are engaged during this arm support posture.

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Yoga Anatomy Expert
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Chaturanga dandasana, or four-limbed stick pose, is an arm support in which your spine remains lengthened as you support yourself a few inches from the floor. If your arms feel heavy and tire quickly, that’s a good sign that you could be using your breath more for support. Focus on the details of how you can make the breath long and smooth, and the action of the “bandhas” will naturally arise. Bandha simply refers to the supportive, coordinated action of the pelvic, respiratory and vocal diaphragms in breath-centered yoga practice.


Muscularly, imbalance in this pose can show up in your lower body as lumbar hyperextension combined with hip flexion. To counter this, the coordinated action of your hamstrings is important. In your upper body, weakness in the triceps and serratus anterior may show up as a collapse in the shoulder blades, resulting in an overuse of you pectoralis muslces.

The common correction of “pulling your shoulder blades down your back” may give you a sense of strength in the back, but it will likely recruit you latisssimus dorsi, which contributes to hyperextension of the lumbar spine and a downward rotation of the scapulae.

Maintaining this position relative to gravity calls into play virtually all the respiratory muscles, along with the arms and shoulder girdle. This degree of muscular effort produces a strong stabilizing effect on the movements of the diaphragm, which will operate against considerable resistance. Progress in this pose consists of making the muscular effort as efficient as possible, which will result in the ability to maintain both the alignment and smooth breathing for increasingly longer periods of time.

This article has been adapted from Leslie Kaminoff’s book Yoga Anatomy, an illustrated guide to the underlying structures and principles of the movements in yoga. Learn more at yogaanatomy.net

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