Chaturanga Dandasana in Vinyasa Flow Yoga is of course a difficult pose that is often rushed. Here is my preferred progression through three chaturangas that I teach to everyone from my beginners to my teacher trainees. Take your time as you progress from one to another, or just stick with the one that works best for you.
No. 1 – Roll-down
If you are learning chaturanga or stepping back from it, try rolling down. Skip out on knees-chest-chin as it bears little relation to chaturanga and roll the thighs down first, then belly, then lower ribs, bending the elbows straight back. This movement teaches some of the basic actions of chaturanga with much less demand on shoulders, arm, and core.
No. 2 – Knees-down
Much like a modified triceps-press you would do at the gym, this knees down version builds on the roll-down but adds an integrated core that supports the length of the torso as you come forward and down to the floor. You can come all the way down, normally a no-no with chaturanga, as the knees bear much of the weight and there is less force going through the upper body. If you cannot sustain the pose while keeping the elbows tight into the side ribs as you come down you can go as far as you can and then turn the pose into a roll-down. Eventually you’ll build the strength to get all the way down with integrity.
No. 3 – Chaturanga Dandasana (i.e. the full pose)
Once you’ve spent some time with the above you’ll be able to start working on the full pose. Remember weight comes forward, elbows stay tightly in and bend backwards and you keep the shoulder-blades moving down the back towards the waist.