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5 Moves to Scuplt Your Arms, Firm Your Backside and Strengthen Your Core: Breaking Down Chaturanga Dandasana

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I love Chaturanga Dandasana because it makes me feel strong. This asana is the key to every arm balance and requires a very clear body awareness. It also takes strength in the arms and shoulders, and an integrated back, core and side body. In chaturanga, the chaturanga dandasanaentire body is engaged from high plank as the elbows bend straight back to hug the waist until the shoulders are even with the elbows. This is where a lot of folks go wrong. Either they don’t have the core strength to lower down with integrity, their back sags and their shoulders collapse; their triceps or shoulders aren’t active enough and the elbows bow out to the sides; or the body awareness just isn’t there and
the shoulders come down lower than the elbows. These are all great ways to injure the shoulders or strain the back.

Try these 5 techniques to cultivate the strength and awareness necessary to refine your chaturanga while toning and stretching the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back. It won’t take long for you to feel and see the results!

Sphinx

Method:

Lay on your belly. Stretch your legs back one at a time. Place your feet shoulders width apart and subtly press the tops of them into the floor. Gently press your pubic bone into the floor, pull the navel and lower ribs in. Place your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and arrange the forearms so that they are parallel to one another. Widen through the collar bones
and draw up through the crown of the head to lengthen the spine. Activate the entire body.

Reason:IMG_7159

Introduces a parallel relationship between the left and right arms, and a 90’ angle. relationship between the upper and lower arms.

Arms are hugging the body, just like in chaturanga.

Encourages the collar bones to spread. This awareness prevents collapsing through the chest in chaturanga.

Cultivates space between the ribs and activity in the side body.

Strengthens the arms and back. 

Down Dog to Up Dog

This kriya is inspired by one of the Five Tibetan Rights of Rejuvenation. Repeating this movement 21 times per day is said to promote perfect health and longevity, and to strengthen, purify and balance the energy body. 

Method:

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Place your hands and feet on the floor while making your body into an upside down “V” shape.

Keep your tiptoes on the mat. Inhale as you lower your hips toward the mat without allowing the thighs to touch down.

Exhale to lift the hips back up to the sky.

Repeat 21+ times with breath.


Reason:

Strengthens the shoulders, arms, back and core.IMG_7147

Enhances flexibility in the shoulders and back.

Stretches and massages the whole body.

Creates a muscle memory (somatic imprint) for parallel arms and body symmetry.

Enhances body awareness.

Firms bum and belly and tones the back body.

Bench Pose Kriya with Tricep Squeezes

This kriya is another inspiration from the Five Tibetans for longevity and positive energy.                                                                           

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Method:

Place the hands beneath the shoulders with fingers pointing forward towards the heels.

With knees bent and feet flat on the floor, press into the feet to lift the seat up off the ground.

Lift the hips as high as they will go. Gaze forward, to the sky or to the space behind you.

Inhale to swing the hips back through the wrists as legs straighten. Place your hands on blocks if your bum drags along your mat.

Exhale, press the hips up to the sky. 

Repeat 21+ times.

Once complete, hold the hips in the lifted position and pulse the elbows to bend and extend as many times as you can while keeping the shoulders over the wrists.

Reason:

Strengthens the triceps, which are the key arm muscles in chaturanga.

Develops the muscles which spread and stabilize the collar bones.

Strengthens the neck, back and shoulders.

Lifts and firms the bum and the backs of the thighs.

Harmonizes body and breath.

Reinforces the parallel arm relationship and symmetry in the body.

Side Plank (Vashistasana) Pulse

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Method:

From Vashistasana (Side-plank), bend the knees and reach the top arm down past the ankles as you exhale, inhale as you straighten out the legs and spring back into a lateral arching side bend. 

Repeat 4-16 times on each side.

Reason:

Strengthens the shoulders, arms, legs, core and back.

Cultivates body awareness.

Activates the integration of back, core and sides.

Integrates breath and movement through expansion and contraction of the body.

High Plank Push-ups

IMG_7184Method:

Place palms on the floor, legs straight, body firm, on the tiptoes.

Press the heels into the space behind them, draw the inner thighs toward the sky, lengthen the low back and pull the lower belly in.

Squeeze the inner arms against the ribs and side body. Inhale as you bend the elbows towards the waist until the shoulders are even with the elbows. Gradually bend your elbows a little deeper each time you do this to develop your muscles if you have a hard time with this one at first.

Exhale and straighten the arms out again so the shoulders are over the wrists.

Repeat 3-12 times.

IMG_7192Reason:

Works and develops all of the same muscles that chaturanga does in the shoulders, arms, legs, back and core.

Creates a somatic imprint for the placement of the arms, the degree of the bend in the elbows, and the physical sensation of the straight lines running along the front, back and sides.

Strengthening the muscles in the shoulders, chest and back will prevent injury even if one is doing chaturanga incorrectly.

For more ways to deepen your practice, get fit and cultivate strength and flexibility, join one of our Yoga Teacher Training Certification programs at The Sanctuary at Two Rivers in Costa Rica! We have two to choose from in 2015; April 12-May 2 and June 28-July 18.

Feel free to comment below or contact me if you have any questions!

Special thanks to Lela Pigott for the photos!

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