FIGURE 13-26: Chattaranga Dandasana
Chattaranga Dandasana is the four-limbed staff pose. In this pose, the body resembles a staff, parallel to the ground, which is supported by the strength of the four limbs. Lie down on your belly with legs extended and hands under shoulders, fingers facing forward. The elbows are next to the waist, not out to the sides. Press the hands down and lift the top of the shoulders away from the floor. The goal is to have the shoulder at the same height as the elbows throughout the pose (SEE FIGURE 13-26). Otherwise, the upper arm bone will not be in the socket, and there is a possibility of injuring your neck and shoulders through misalignment. Observe the muscle action in the upper back. Feel the shoulder blades hugging the back.
Shrug the shoulders toward the ears slightly to feed the upper arm bones into the shoulder socket. Now the arms and shoulders are supporting the upper body. Tuck the toes way under and walk them toward the body. This action helps lift the kneecaps and firms the thighs, drawing the muscle energy up the front of the leg to the hip. The thighbones insert into the hip sockets, supporting the pelvis. Now stretch the heels away from the back body, stimulating muscle action through the backside of the leg from hamstrings to heel. Feel the thighs and hips lift slightly off the floor.
Inhale the breath and as you exhale press the lower abdomen against the front of the spine, press the hands and toes down, and lift the body up, like a staff, off the floor. Lengthen the collarbones and sternum toward the head and the abdomen and lower back toward the heels. The hips and shoulders are the same height off the floor. See if you can stay up for a second and come down. Try it several times, using your breath to facilitate the movement into the pose.
Remember that in the Yoga Sutra, the importance of sadhana (practice) is stressed over and over, as an integral part of the path of yoga. Your strength and agility will improve over time, so don't be discouraged if it seems impossible at first.
As a modification, try coming into the pose from downward-facing dog. Bring the shoulders over the wrists and bend the arms back into Chattaranga Dandasana arms as you compactly lower your body parallel to the floor. Stretch your sternum forward and your abdomen and heels away from the sternum. Press the soles of the feet against the wall to feel the action of the heels stretching backward.
This pose is not to be done by pregnant women once the belly is protruding. People with wrist problems should do the pose carefully, using support under the wrist to decrease the angle of the bend in the wrist. Distribute the body weight through the entire hand, not just the wrist. Press the fingers down as you lengthen into the fingertips. If you have shoulder problems, check your alignment. Make sure the shoulders remain in line with the elbows. Hold the pose briefly and repeat several times, unless pain is present.
The benefits of Chattaranga Dandasana include the following:
It increases upper-body strength.
It increases bone density.
It strengthens the arms and wrists.
It improves wrist flexibility.
It contracts and tones abdominal organs.