What is the true purpose of the push-up posture, Chaturanga Dandasana?

It’s not what you think…

Chaturanga Dandasana or push up pose is one of the easiest poses get an injury. It requires a step-by-step approach, just like handstand. Yet, it has become a basic shape in many beginners yoga classes…

Can you imagine if you were asked to do a handstand 5-10 times in a class?

Shoulders and wrists will suffer with poor form. If you don’t yet have enough core to lower yourself slowly without rounding your shoulders forward, you will strain your shoulder muscles, (the rotator cuff), tendons and ligaments.

A painful shoulder will follow, and you may continue to do this pose again and again, making it worse with the “push through the pain” mentality.

This is why perceiving yoga as a form of exercise is a colonized approach and injurious. You don’t receive the same one-on-one guidance for this pose in a group class as you would get with a personal trainer.

Yoga is for the development of the mind. Yoga teaches awareness and discernment of thoughts and a piercing concentration and focus. The aim of understanding the mind is for spiritual development.

The shoulder and wrist joints are not built to take on the weight of your body. But your core is. And what is the core? Your back, pelvic floor, abdominals and bum (glutes). Other muscle groups such as the triceps (arms) and quadriceps (thighs) are all meant to be engaged! When I ask students in training what is engaged in this shape, the answer is Everything.

There is a great way to test if you can do this pose by lifting off a block at the hips and hovering with your elbows bent.

There is a great way to test your ego here too. Can you be humble and patient and build up the strength to do this shape with good form? This may mean starting on your knees or only lowering partway down. It requires moving slowly and mindfully.

Chaturanga Dandasana challenges our self-concept, our ability to learn and step-back when appropriate. It can teach how to genuinely care for the Self while the mind attempts to push.

Authentic self-care is one of the greatest challenges in our society. We are encouraged to strive, strain, and push and here we are given the opportunity to go slowly, practice the steps and gain a magnificent shape demonstrating our time in self-contemplation and practice.

Perhaps the challenge of Chaturanga Dandasana is: how much you can love yourself? How much can you listen to your body’s cues? How much can you resist the striving in your mind and let your body lead?

woman in push up yoga pose chaturanga dandasana

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