ChaturAHHHHHHHnga (White Lotus part 5)


I’ve been asked to write a lot about my experience at White Lotus.  Folks want to read about different things.  Some folks want the historical / philosophic stuff, some folks want the social playtime stuff, some folks want The Flow Series (come to class, folks, come to class,) but most everyone wants to hear about what I learned that I didn’t know before OR what got validated and what got tossed to the curb.  Clearly, I could write for DAYS on this, but will start with out best friend and worst enemy, Chaturanga Dandasana.

I’ve been doing yoga for a long time and have taken loads of classes with different teachers and they almost all tell you to do the same thing: Shift your weight forward over your wrists and then lower down.  I have heard that probably 10,000 times.  Know what I also heard at the exact same time? Hundreds of shoulders popping and cracking and screaming.  My own shoulders pop and crack and roll and are easily fatigued and I am only 34.  It’s the beginning of arthritis from years of doing Chaturanga incorrectly.  Folks teach it wrong 99% of the time and it’s not their fault, it’s what they have been taught to teach!  At White Lotus, however, the focus is on injury prevention and on fostering and maintaining extensional energy.

There is NO point in shifting the weight over your wrists.  The extensional energy is from the spine, not from the shoulders.  It’s the length of the spine and the release of the breath that make Chaturanga Dandasana the pose that it is.  Ganga and Tracey had us all do Chaturanga the way we’ve all done it for a zillion years and really notice what was happening in our bodies: our shoulders screamed, our legs lost vitality, our necks crunched, our wrists pretty much flipped us the bird.  Where was the energy of the pose?  It had gone right into the toilet.  Then they had us… wait for it … shift our weight BACK through the heels, extend out through the crown of our heads, and lower down on the exhale.  The room erupted like we were on Oprah and had just all won cars!  WHAT A FREAKING DIFFERENCE!  When doing it that way, the purpose of the pose is abundantly clear!  Nothing screamed.  Nothing flipped us off.  And it was still strengthening, lengthening, and empowering … but it was LIGHT and beautiful and safe.

Check out the following pictures:



Look at how her whole weight is being supported by her shoulders and her wrists. For Elvis’s sake, look at her freaking shoulders alone!  Do those look like shoulders who will be hanging out for the long haul?  Nope, those suckers are going to be looking for the back door exit as soon as freaking possible.  There is no extensional energy – it looks like someone put their foot on her butt and shoved forward.  This is how we’ve done it for a zillion years, and this is why we are all complaining and icing our shoulders after putting on a sweater.


DO THIS (sort of)!!!

Okay, this is not perfect.  Her neck is screaming like the shoulders above, but for the sake of this post, IGNORE HER NECK AND HEAD! I know it doesn’t look nearly as “impressive” as the Chaturwronga (sorry) above looks, but if you have been doing yoga for more than a week or two, you have learned that it’s not about what it looks like.  This gal has her energy equally stationed between her heels and her hands.  Her back is straight, her shoulders are happy,and she’s clearly breathing.  I’m not sure the gal above has breathed in years.


So, okay, let me state this again: We’ve all done it the wrong way because we’ve been taught the wrong way.  We’ve been taught the wrong way because our teachers have been taught the wrong way.  And our teachers were taught the wrong way because the circus came to town.  I know there are going to be some Ashtangis who will scream and throw their hands in the air and tell me I’m 10,000 shades of wrong.  Believe me, I get it.  I thought this was wrong, too.  I beg of you, however, to give the AshGanga way a try.  TRY IT.  See what happens, see what it feels like.  See that, when you push back through your heels in Chaturanga, you can then flip the toes over and push through the toes to slide up and forward into Urdhva Muka Svanasana and save your shoulders some more!!

I promise, you’ll turn your Chaturwronga into a Chaturahhhhnga and won’t ever look back.

Om Shanti!




9 responses »

  1. Nice post Sarah! I learned the proper technique for chaturanga from Jess Perry, a teacher at Jivamukti Yoga school. When she told me to extend through my heels and lengthen through the crown of my head it was an a-ha moment for me…….incredible lightness and ease as I lifted into Urdhva Muka Svanasana. Now I spend lots of time in my classes teaching Chaturanga slowly, step-by-step in the appropriate and safe fashion. I’m so glad that you are going to be out there teaching proper technique as well. Not enough yoga teachers know this, and then everyone wonders why yoga is wrecking their shoulders.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your time at White Lotus!!

  2. Thank you for this. I am happy to see that I am learning the correct way in both my YTT and with my other instructor, but you see it done the other way so much in group classes. ouchie.

      • It’s going great, thanks! I actually haven’t decided if I am going to blog about it yet. It’s a very personal journey for me and while I do tend to throw a lot out there for the world to see, I am not sure I am quite ready for it. I don’t mind marinating on it, after all, once it’s out there it’s hard to pull it back in.

      • That is AMAZING, Tali! In fact, this is EXACTLY what I realized on Silent Day (the next White Lotus post.) I realized that I was giving my words away instead of letting them stay within me. I had been getting so upset when people criticized or demeaned (my opinion) my ideas or thoughts or feelings, but what silence taught me was that I had been putting my ideas and feelings and thoughts and such out there into the big wide world before they were fully formed. They were as vulnerable as a premature baby – unable to fend off outside forces because they were not fully developed!

        AMAZING how we’re having similar experiences. YAY for YTT!

        Much love, thank you for sharing.

  3. I’m a big fan of getting students to try Chaturanga w/ their knees down first so they can feel the strength that comes from lowering w/o dropping the shoulders. It is HARD!! Ana Forrest does not let students put knees up b/c so many people dip shoulders in front of elbows and ouch! results.

    Sadie Nardini teaches a terrific way of doing Chaturanga that really resonates in my body and is one of the only ways I can rock my strength and not hurt my shoulders. She suggests you lower down (very often using knee down btw) to about where your shoulders are in line w/ your elbows and no further. then you suggest your chest forward slightly but coming forward on your toes. You then lower your hips down and instantly voila you are in place for upward facing dog. It’s perfect… no forcing chest forward, just gently rolling up b/c your body is already there.

    good for you pushing this point, it’s definitely one of my bugaboos

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