March | Chaturunga Dandasana

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra II.1

Tapah svādhyāyeśhvara pranidhānāni kriyā yogah

Undertaking difficult spiritual practices, regular study, and prayers to the Master are ways of becoming whole that are activities.

“The second cornerstone upon which the house of yoga is built is the Way.  In the first chapter we use deep meditation to travel through the five paths; in the second chapter we start some very practical yoga methods to attain this meditation, and the wisdom that rides it.”

Just as we support our bodies with our four limbs like a table, kriya yoga has three practical methods which support the minimizing of the gross colorings (kleshas) of the mental obstacles, which veil the true Self.

Those three methods are: 1) training and purifying the senses (tapas); 2) self-study in the context of teachings (svadhyaya), and 3) devotion and letting go into the creative source form which we emerged (ishavara pranidhana).

People tend to shy away from things that are challenging, difficult or painful, but accepting pain as help for purification makes the mind steady and strong - this is tapas... having a zeal for the practices and knowledge.

For svadhyaya, anything that will elevate your mind and remind you of your true Self should be studied…  and studied with the heart, not just the mind.

Lastly, surrender to the Supreme Being by dedicating the fruits of your actions to God or to humanity (God in manifestation).  The mind will become free and tranquil as you dedicate everything - your studies, your practices, your actions.

Each are important just as each limb is important to Chaturanga Dandasana.

Have the passion to do the work that is needed, study and learn from the all great teachers, get out of your own way and surrender it all with love and non-attachment.  Go ahead, just try it… 

Chaturanga Dandasana is found in almost every yoga asana class as part of the Surya Namaskar (sun salute) series.  It is a strengthening posture as the weight of the body rests on the hands and feet.  Maintaining a straight line through the body from Kumbhakasana (plank pose or upper push-up position) through Chaturanga Dandasana is key.  By firming the abdominal muscles and drawing them in towards your core you prevent sagging in the posture.  Keep the arms and elbows alongside the body as you lower down on an exhale.  Visualize using the exhale as an air brake as you lower down to make the transition feel lighter.  Think about moving the energy out through the crown of the head and the bottoms of the feet, instead of up and down. Keep your gaze (dristi) at the tip of the nose.  Roll over the toes as you move into Upward Facing Dog.

Some tips to help you experience this:

  1.  Step back, instead of jumping, to plank pose, in order to invite a more controlled set up for lowering down and proper alignment.
  2. Use a belt around the upper arms, right above the elbows, to create a hammock for the torso to land in as it lowers down. This prop will let you know if you have lowered far enough or if you are lowering too far.
  3. Place a block on the second or third height, right under the pubic bone, to again let you know if you have gone too far or not enough and that you are maintaining a straight line with your body.
  4. Hold the pose.  We general just transition through it but maybe hang out for a few breaths and explore!

-Ryan Kenney

Excerpt from The Essential Yoga Sutra : Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga

Allison Joy Phillips