One of the things we see the most in a yoga class at our studio in Lakewood, CO ...
is unsafe alignment in one of the poses we do most at CCYOGA, chaturanga dandasana (chah-tuur-ANGH-uh dahn-DAHS-uh-nuh).
Half of the challenge is a mis-understanding of alignment. The other half is trying the advanced version of the pose, when the arm and shoulder strength is not quite there.
Even as a practitioner of yoga for over a decade, I still modify chaturanga and do it on my knees or don't lower all of the way to a 90 degree elbow bend.
Check out the video below of me and Stephanie (CCYOGA's amazing yoga studio manager) in Lakewood, CO walking you through three variations of chaturanga (4 legged staff pose).
In variation number one, after you shift your weight forward and lower your knees to the floor, you then lower only a third of the way down with your elbows pulled in to your sides, followed by lowering all the way to the floor, inhale as you rise to cobra, then release back to the floor before inhaling up to table top and exhaling back to downward facing dog.
In variation number two, you shift your weight forward and lower your knees to the mat, then lower halfway down to the floor bringing your elbows to a 90 degree angle, straighten your arms coming into upward facing dog and pushing the crown of your head toward the ceiling, then push back through table top on your way to downward facing dog.
In variation number three, you do a full chaturunga lowering from high plank to low plank (with straight legs) bringing your elbows to a 90 degree angle. You then straighten your arms moving in to upward facing dog followed by using your abs to raise your hips to the ceiling as you transfer to downward facing dog.
Following these tips and listening to your body, you can now safely add chaturunga's into your practice!
*Video recorded in the Container Collective Yoga Studio in Lakewood, CO.