Chaturanga Dandasana (Sanskrit: चतुरङ्ग दण्डासन; IAST: Caturaṅga Daṇḍāsana) or Four-Limbed Staff Pose, also known as Low Plank, is an asana in modern yoga as exercise, in which a straight body parallel to the ground is supported by the toes and palms, with elbows at a right angle. The variation Kumbhakasana or High Plank has the arms straight.
Etymology and origins
The name comes from the Sanskrit words chatur (Sanskrit: चतुर्; IAST:catur) meaning "four", anga (Sanskrit: अङ्ग; IAST: aṅga) meaning "limb", danda (Sanskrit: दण्ड; IAST:daṇḍa) meaning "staff" (refers to the spine, the central "staff" or support of the body), and asana (Sanskrit: आसन; IAST:Āsana) meaning "posture" or "seat".
The pose is unknown in hatha yoga until the 20th century Light on Yoga, but the pose appears in the 1896 Vyayama Dipika, a manual of gymnastics, as part of the "very old" sequence of danda (Sanskrit for "staff" or "stick") exercises. Norman Sjoman suggests that it is one of the poses adopted into modern yoga in Mysore by Krishnamacharya and forming the "primary foundation" for his vinyasas with flowing movements between poses. The pose would then have been taken up by his pupils Pattabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar.
In Chaturaṅga Daṇḍāsana the hands and feet are on the floor, supporting the body, which is parallel to and lowered toward, but not touching, the floor. It looks much like a push up, but with the hands quite low (just above the pelvis), and the elbows kept in along the sides of the body.
When performed correctly, it can help prepare the body for arm balance asanas by strengthening important muscles and promoting good form.
In vinyasa styles of yoga, Caturaṅga Daṇḍāsana is part of the Sun Salutations Sūrya Namaskāra A and B. In the sequences it is performed on an exhale, and the dṛṣṭi दृष्टि is the nāsāgra (नासाग्र) with the face pointing forwards. In Sūrya Namaskāra A it is the fourth count (catvāri, चत्वारि), and in Sūrya Namaskāra B it is performed on the fourth, eighth and twelfth counts (catvāri, चत्वारि;aṣṭa,अष्ट;dvādaśa,द्वादश respectively).
In yoga practice without vinyasa the asana is simply held for a period of time (for instance, 30 seconds) with continuous breathing.
Beginners can practise with the knees on the floor, or keeping the arms straight (in Kumbhakasana, also called Phalakasana or High Plank), before attempting the full pose.
Lumbar hyperextension and hip flexion is a result of weakness in this asana, which can be corrected by activating the hamstrings.
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