Has anyone had an experience with teaching chaturanga dandasana to beginners? I came across a YJ article involving the use of a block under the hips as support, which I tried and really liked. Much better than what is normally experienced with knees-chest-chin as an alternative. From what I've seen, most people have no clue where they're going or what they're supposed to be feeling in that so-called easier variation.
My intention is to teach chaturanga dandasana as a pose in itself, not just something you pass through on your way in the iteration of vinyasa. I would like my students to feel, as I have now learned to feel, the actions of strength and engagement balanced with heart-opening and expansion.
Posted 2008-07-18 1:44 PM (#109425 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandasana
Chat is my arch-nemesis. I've been trying to shift away from having expectations in my practice of not being able to do things and go fearlessly into everything. I've also been trying to take this off the mat : water too cold? Of course I'll go in swimming! I have such a problem w. where my arms should be in space. When I focus on chat as a pose sep. from a vinyasa, it's a little easier. To me, the main thing is the feeling in my arms. If I have some time and am talked through where my arms should be, it usually makes a little more sense to me. I had an amazing pranayama based class a few weeks ago and I actually got chat! I wasn't hovering 1/2 an inch away from the floor, but it was still great for me. Also, I've said a lot about the arms. Even more important the arms are the bandhas/core business. Working on my bandhas w. pranayama in taht class was got me into chat. I've been practicing yoga for awhile now and I am fairly strong (anybody have tickets to the gun show) and I can't udnerstand why I can't get it.
Posted 2008-07-18 2:08 PM (#109428 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
this is really too much to talk about online, as there are many ways to get students to learn this pose, and most of my beginner students learn this posture in less than 6 weeks--as a posture in and of itself, and not some 'skate through' mess in vinyasa.
So, here's an opportunity if you'd like to take it--
I'm going to lead a workshop in how to teach, modify, and assist chaturanga dandhasana for beginners later this month: Sunday, July 27, 2008 11:30 am to 3:30 pm at Ocean Earth Wind Fire studio in Phoenixville, PA.
the studio's web site is http://www.oceanearthwindfire.com . you'll find the info about the workshop and then need to email or call Susan to let her know that you're going to attend. it's $50.
the workshop has multiple levels of people there--teachers who are certified and want more instruction in alignment and assisting, my teachers-in-training (the majority of the students are this), and then students who just want more depth of study and are willing to be guinea pigs!
so, hopefully you will be able to make it--if not, no biggie. but this is way to much to pass on online! LOL
Posted 2008-07-18 2:24 PM (#109431 - in reply to #109428) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
Hi ZB, thanks for the info on the workshop! I do realize it's way more involved than a quick ask-and-answer thing online, but mainly I was curious about using the block as a prop as described in that article, or perhaps using props in other ways.
Your workshop sounds great, but unfortunately that's the one Sunday all this summer that we already have plans. Figures, right? Thanks anyway.
Posted 2008-07-18 2:25 PM (#109432 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandasana
Chaturanga is one of the postures that benefit from knowing the translation.
Tell them that it means 4 limbed staff! Meaning encouarge them to use all 4 limbs. Most of the time they are not using their legs which translates to not using bandha.
I've had lot of success with students holding a block between their legs too. I taught two long holds in Chat this past week. Each time I told them to be like a crocodile waiting near a lake. tailbone down, look forward, thighs lift up, lower just below elbows. shoulders in front of the wrists.
Best of luck,
Posted 2008-07-18 2:50 PM (#109433 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
then, my prefered method is a block between the thighs in order to utilize the legs and bandhas, and also two blocks where the shoulders should come down to (modified version--i do not teach the 1/2 inch from the floor full version until the shoulders are open enough, and most people, even after years and years, aren't ready for that and will injure themselves) while the belly and everything stays up.
i teach with knees on the floor as well.
i say, cancel your plans and come to the workshop!
and, FWIW, we do have 'study group' each tuesday night in my home, so if you want to come to that, let me know. LOL
Posted 2008-07-18 3:39 PM (#109434 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
I think my protocols or curriculum for teaching Chaturanga Dandasana would be too involved/lengthy/time consuming for posting.
Edited by purnayoga 2008-07-18 3:39 PM
Posted 2008-07-18 5:44 PM (#109438 - in reply to #109434) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
OK, let me rephrase my question then: in teaching chaturanga, does the use of a block under the hips help educate the average beginning yoga student in what they're supposed to be experiencing in the upper body? Folks, I'm not asking how to teach the pose, but rather just about that one specific modification.
The reason I ask, is that even with the knees on the floor, and even with the proper alignment of the hips, the proper muscular engagement of the lower body, yes the bandhas (not my teaching style's terminology, but ok, I get what you all mean), all that, people still droop the shoulders forward and compress the chest. Now because I personally have been working that pose, yes under the direct guidance of my teacher, in more advanced level asana classes, the aid of the block at my hips really made a difference for me, because I knew what I was looking for. In the classes I've attended, though, we've never used a block under the hips, which is why I was asking. I thought maybe it was an Iyengar standard....
Anyway... thanks for all the input thus far. I'm actually attending a workshop for teachers next week on the specifics of teaching asana to beginners (honestly, I had forgotten that was coming up when I first posted my question!).
Posted 2008-07-19 12:18 AM (#109452 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
If the block in that place works for you wthen no other fedback cold really touch that. Go with it.
I personally do not use a block for teaching Chaturanga AND I don't teach the pose as part of the curriculum for beginning students.
Posted 2008-07-19 10:30 AM (#109459 - in reply to #109438) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
OM - it is definitely not an Iyengar standard and neither, in my limited experience, is knees to floor. The trouble with either of these approaches is that the action of the legs, which is so key, is not there. Having said that, there is an argument to be made that eliminating the need to hold the body weight up by using a block under the hips can help students learn the correct actions of the arms and shoulders. I like down dog in the ropes for this reason.
We do use the bock between the thighs sometimes and sometimes I will support a student with a belt around the hips. That requires some pretty serious back-awareness on my part, but it provides clarity for some students who are close to getting the actions right. When they start to correctly use their legs, the weight on the belt I am holding instantly disappears and of course, they feel the difference as well.
Posted 2008-07-19 3:48 PM (#109474 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
teaching upward facing dog with the feet flexed under (as in chaturanga) is a good place to start teaching the legs.
after that, sometimes i'll put people up on a bolster to support their weight, and then teach them the arm/shoulder actions...pulling the shoulders away from the floor, putting the shoulderblades in place, etc...feeling the upward lift from putting pressure into the arms and legs.
then they can either do full chaturanga or not.
most people lack the core and upper body strength to perform it effectively...
just have them do standing poses
Posted 2008-07-19 5:11 PM (#109477 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
as i wrote before, i prefer blocks under the shoulders to create the proper shoulder/arm/chest alignment in the posture.
the biggest problem that i see in most versions of this posture is the sagging of the lower back first, which causes the shoulders to collapse, and then the head drops, and then the hands end up in the wrong place so that the arms don't make a 90 degree angle, and blah blah blah
crash landing everyone gets injured.
i don't use block under hips. between legst o get leg action and under shoulders to teach shoulder/chest back action.
takes 6 weeks on average.
Posted 2008-07-22 7:54 AM (#109585 - in reply to #109477) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
Well, I attended the teaching-beginners workshop yesterday, and when I asked my question regarding chaturanga, I was told it really wasn't a pose for rank beginners. Um, yeah, I kinda knew that already. But at some point, as people progress in their fitness, strength and body-awareness abilities, they do get to the point where they're ready, right? I have students that have been taking my classes (all drop-ins, so very few are entirely consistent, but still) for several months now, so I was thinking maybe it was time to address this pose. So what is that called, intermediate-beginners? Beginning mixed-level practioners? The label notwithstanding, I was just looking for a way to get them to understand that it is the legs that work here, not just the arms. Believe, most of what we've been doing has been standing poses, so it's time, I think, to start to move on.
So this week (as I've done several times before) I'll teach with the block between the legs, moving from dog to plank, then maybe bend the elbows a little and straighten again and back to dog. Maybe not. We'll see.
Posted 2008-07-22 10:28 AM (#109590 - in reply to #109585) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
OM - that's the progression I use. Must be tough with so many drop-ins though to know where everyone is.
Posted 2008-07-22 11:00 AM (#109593 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
honestly, i teach it to rank beginners.
muscularly speaking, it doesn't require any more strength/fitness than standing up and carrying a bag of groceries. most people do this (and more) every day.
it's sort of like telling someone to do bicep curls with a can of soup as a "starter" or something, without realizing that they bicep curl a lot more weight than that on a regular basis if they pick up a kid. so seriously, why start with a can of soup?
the truth is, people underestimate their own ability. this is really a posture not about strength, but about coordination in another direction. standing up and holding our arms in the right position is simple. add a bag of groceries, people still arent' struggling.
change directions (and thus gravitational force), and honestly, it's just awkward.
Now, when do i teach "rank beginners" this posture? lets see: in a 10 class session (one class per week), it goes like this:
1st class: mountain pose, forward bend, breathing techniques, and bandhas (ab work to learn where they are, what they feel like, etc)
2nd class: (review above) cat stretches, lunge, and downward dog
3rd class: (review 1 and 2) plank pose and upward dog
4th class: (review 1-3), introduce chaturanga in detail and try it a few times. some 'rank beginners' get it the first time, others take more time.
5thh class: (review 1-4) and move into practicing chaturanga with props and assists
6th class: (review 1-5) practice chaturanga in groups so that individuals can teach each other the "tricks" that they figured out in homework, etc.
7th class: (review 1-6), introduce the vinyasa of plank, chaturanga, up dog without "skating" through any posture
8th class: put sun salutation A together (usually the majority of my "rank beginners" have chaturange at this point--that's 4 weeks into practicing yoga, and we're talking people of all ages, fitness levels, etc).
9th class: review sun A, teach utkatasana and warrior I
10th class: sun salutations A and B, questions and review.
At this point, they move on to yoga 1 and 2, which builds off of sun salutations. then, they move onto yoga 2, which is the 'intermediate/advanced' class.
most of my students 'get' chaturanga by the 10th class--after first introduction 6 weeks prior.
seriously, i don't see why this isn't a posture for "rank beginners" since i've safely and successfully taught it to rank beginners for years now.
Posted 2008-07-22 9:39 PM (#109613 - in reply to #109585) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
OrangeMat - 2008-07-22 4:54 AM
Well, I attended the teaching-beginners workshop yesterday, and when I asked my question regarding chaturanga, I was told it really wasn't a pose for rank beginners. Um, yeah, I kinda knew that already.
I'm really having a hard time imagining this posture out of a sequence. What do you do for prep? What postures do you include to judge whether students are ready for chaturanga dandasana? What counterposes do you do?
Leslike Kaminoff includes this posture under arm balances in his book Yoga Antatomy and says in the intro to arm balances "In modern Western culture, many people overuse and misuse their arms and hands while working at computers. This is why all the arm supports in this book are categorized as intermediate or advanced; beginning students don't put weight on their hands until they've fully experienced standing on their feet."
I have to disagree with Zoebird. I work with people that do not have young children and probably eat most of their meals out. I don't think they are lifting much of anything. And a once a week yoga class is not going to get them prepared for chaturanga dandasana.
Posted 2008-07-23 10:08 AM (#109620 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
Edited by zoebird 2008-07-23 10:14 AM
Posted 2008-07-23 10:13 AM (#109621 - in reply to #109423) Subject: RE: teaching chaturanga dandas
many of those who do teach this posture teach it as an intermediate posture; i have no problem with that because it's simply based on a different perspective of what one can handle, when and how to prepare for that.
i think that it's a far better approach than many vinyasa teachers here take--which is to simply not teach the posture and allow people to 'skate' through it. this is generally what causes injury to a lot of vinyasa students.
i believe that it has to be taught in a consistent way, with a great deal of attention to detail--because without that, then people will misalign and injure themselves. then, it can be introduced into vinyasa.
FWIW, beryl bender birch pointed out that this posture (along with upward dog and downward dog--which generally are taught to beginners as well) helps to realign the shoulder and chest to help improve posture as well as open up the wrists by counteracting the 'forward motions' of the wrists that people use at computers (and thereby the problems inherent such as tendinitis and carpel tunnel syndrome).
in the last 5 years of teaching this posture in this specific way to rank beginners, i have noticed the same results.
it might also be noted that i work with a wide variety of clients who range in age from 25 to 75, who have any number of lifestyles and various problems that come with that. all of them have reported improvement in their physical well-being by practicing this posture consistently and effectively.
therefore, i'm just going to continue teaching it to "rank beginners" because i both believe and have seen the benefits of doing so.