For the past 7 years, power vinyasa has been my preferred and regular form of practice. So you can trust me when I tell you that power yogis are obsessed with Chataranga Dandasana.
For my non-yoga readers, Chataranga, also known as 4 limbed staff pose, is basically a yoga pushup. This pose is used to build core strength and stamina and features prominently in sun salutations. It is also used heavily as a transition pose throughout many vinyasa sequences.
Chataranga Dandasana, followed closely by arm balances, is the most workshopped asana in all of modern western yoga. Countless hours of discussion and demonstration have gone toward attainment of the perfect Iyengar Chataranga Dandasana. I’ll be the first to admit that I have never missed a Chataranga workshop.
And until recently, I completely subscribed to the idea that to be power yoga, a sequence must have Chataranga. Even after my orthopedic surgeon reviewed my MRI showing shoulder damage including bone spurs, tendinitis, and bursitis, from repetitive stress (i.e., too much chataranga) I kept at it. I thought that at some point the anti-inflammatory medications, all the icing, and the physical therapy would negate the harm I was causing with Chataranga. And with every practice, I was giving up other key asana because I was no longer able to do them while in excruciating pain.
Then one morning I awoke to find that my arm was too weak and painful to carry my little boy and I couldn’t raise my arm to hold the hairdryer.
And there it was. I could no longer ignore all that I was giving up to hold on to my notion of what a yoga practice should be. For fuck’s sake, I had given up the ability to raise my arms above my head so I could do 50 pushups every day. I had become so attached to the meaning I had assigned to Chataranga Dandasana that I had given up my ability to do 50% of the other poses in a power sequence. I had given up my practice for one asana.
It was time to let yoga cure my yoga. It was time to practice aparhigraha, or non-attachment. Time to let go of the idea that a perfect Chataranga was proof of a strong practice.
That day, I replaced Chataranga with a plank and never looked back. It’s three months later and for the first time since quitting Chataranga cold turkey, I can get my hands behind my back without pain. For the first time in more than a year, the entire power yoga sequence is accessible to me because I decided to surrender.