Chaturanga to Cobra to Downward Dog in Depth


If you practice vinyasa yoga, you know the sequence from plank to chaturanga to cobra to downward dog well. You probably do that sequence of poses more than any other. Let’s look at the poses in depth and talk about their benefits and how to do them with proper alignment.

Benefits of Chaturanga to Cobra

Each pose in the sequence has specific benefits. Chaturanga are great for the core. You’re also building arm strength in all three of these poses. Cobra is a heart opener and backbend, and downward dog strengthens the back and shoulders; it is also a great pose for stress relief.

To get the most out of the plank to chaturanga to cobra sequence, you’ll want to focus on alignment. Before your next class, read the cues below and picture doing the poses in your mind. That will help you practice the flow with more ease when you get on your mat.

How to Practice Chaturanga to Cobra to Downward Dog

First, stabilize your plank by pushing your heels back and pulling your navel towards your spine to engage the core. Spread your fingers and press down into the floor to create more space between your shoulder blades. Your gaze is slightly forward. Your hands are under your shoulders at shoulder-width distance, and your fingers are spread wide.

Modify Your Plank if You Need To

If planking feels too intense, set your knees down, but keep pushing through your arms and separating your shoulder blades. Then move slightly forward on your toes, so your hands are by your rib cage.

On an exhale, press your elbows inwards and lower down with control, either to chaturanga (halfway down with the arms at a ninety-degree angle) or through chaturanga all the way to the floor. In this modified version, your upper body should be lower than your bottom.

Moving from Chaturanga to Cobra

If you are on the floor, set the tops of your feet on the mat and come to cobra: Inhale, bring your hands under your shoulders, elbows back, and start straightening your arms as far as feels comfortable, push your chest forward to open it. Your hips, thighs and feet stay on the floor.

Moving From Chaturanga to Upward-facing Dog

If you are still in chaturanga, flip your feet so the soles are pointing up, and with an inhale come into upward-facing dog: Straighten your elbows, lift your knees and thighs off the floor, and press your feet into the mat to lift your legs. Look up if it feels okay for your neck. Your chest is open, and your shoulders are away from your ears.

We’ll Meet in Downward-facing Dog

On an exhale, start engaging your core by pulling your navel towards the spine to lift your hips up. Once you’ve reached your edge, flip your toes back over so the soles of your feet are pointing down, then start pushing your hips backwards until you end up in downward-facing dog.

If you’re still working on your strength to push back into downward-facing dog, set your knees down in your cobra/upward-facing dog, keep your toes tucked, push your hips back towards your heels, and press back to downward-facing dog from there.

Once you’re in downward-facing dog, spread your fingers, look towards your stomach, keeping your ears in line with your biceps. Push your heels gently down and your chest towards your thighs to lift your hips higher. Rotate your biceps out and pull your belly in towards your spine to prevent hyper-extension in the spine.

Focusing on alignment is also a great way to practice mindfulness. By doing the poses with a beginner’s mind and think about each step in the process, you can make your yoga practice a meditation in motion!

Maria Kuzmiak

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