How To Do Chaturanga

It’s an exercise that’s as old as the day is long and as common as an anti-brexit meme on facebook.

It’s one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do with many variations and forms to keep things mixed.

I’m talking of course about the push up but the variation we’ll talk about today is Chaturanga Dandasana.

What I love about Chaturanga is it’s focus on strength and how it’s not only a precursor to other arm balances (such as flying pigeon) but it’s also used as a fantastic way to transition between poses, keeping the flow moving in Vinyasa style workouts.

The standard way of performing Chaturanga is to hold it as a low plank with your hands underneath your bent elbows. This builds insane isometric strength in the arms and the core which is essential to holding your body in space with your arms. 

For transitions, you can move between arm balances or handstands if that’s available to you or flow into either downward facing dog or upward facing dog.

But with all this in mind, why am I talking about a pushup if Chaturanga is technically a static hold?

The hand and elbow placement as well as core and hamstring engagement you need in Chaturanga are essential for the perfect push up.

So let’s take a look...

Areas targeted

  • Chest

  • Obliques

  • Abs

  • Triceps

  • Glutes

  • Quads

  • Hamstrings

  • Calves

  • Ankles

There’s so much more going on than the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise.

Chaturanga involves tons of muscle activation going on here with your hamstrings working to keep a neutral position in the hips, thighs to keep the knees extended, hell, even your shins are activated to keep your foot flexed under tension.

This is all on top of the well known benefits for your core, your arms and your pecs.

Keeping the elbows and upper arms tucked into the body will work these areas more than going out wide which is typically how most guys do push ups.

What are the benefits of the pose?

  • Awesome strength builder throughout the entire body

  • Great for toning arms and abs

  • Precursor to more advance movements

  • Good option to use to transition to other poses in a flow style workout

  • Corrects muscle imbalances in muscle activation

Things to bare in mind

It may well be that you don’t have the strength to do this at first. That’s fine, stay in plank or even drop your knees to the floor.

This is also a fantastic exercise to use for greasing the groove. Don’t get tied to holding for a specific time, just hold for what you can and it will come.

Steps and variations toward Tree Pose

  1. From table top pose, step your feet back so they are in a straight line from heel to shoulder, ensuring your hands are underneath your shoulders. Try to grab the floor with your fingertips, almost like you’re pulling back. Good habit to get into before handstands.

  2. Wrap your triceps back so the eyes of your elbows are facing forward and firm the shoulder blades onto your back. Don’t let them sag. The tailbone should be in a a neutral position to avoid over extension in the lower back.

  3. On the exhale, slowly bend your arms and lower your chest and legs to just a few inches off the floor. Hold here, keeping your arms into your sides, hips in neutral (if your back will arch, it will be here) and legs extended.

  4. Keep your neck in neutral, looking at the floor and your shoulder blades firm onto your back. Keep a smooth, deep breath going throughout

  5. Hold this pose for 30 seconds plus. To come out, on the exhale, push against the floor firmly into a plank position or lower all the way to the floor. For a transition, lift your hips up with straight legs (like someone is pulling you up via a string attached to your backside) and push back with your hands to straight arms, allowing the head to hang and move into downward facing dog.

How to make it more challenging or easier

To make it easier, either reduce the time, drop to your knees or build strength in plank first.

To make it more challenging, you can just increase the time but one of my favourites is to shift forward onto the tops of your feet, so your shoulders move forward and your hands are closer to your waste. This option allows you to prepare for things like the planchette, which is insanely cool!

Hope this helps introduce a new variation and improves your overall pushup strength.

In a bit.

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