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Done on this Side – Flip!

By July 4, 2010February 26th, 20152 Comments

“Ultimately, Yoga is about balance.  It’s important to be strong, but balanced strength is better than unbalanced strength, and strength coupled with flexibility is better than rigid, restrictive strength.”

I just finished reading an article written by Roger Cole (one of my favourite writers in Yoga Journal for tips and advice on anatomy and physiology of yoga) where he addresses the potential for strength imbalances that can come from classes which insert Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), and more specifically Chaturanga Dandasana (plank pose) throughout the sequencing.  He explains that the push-up position of Chaturanga is an excellent way to strengthen the front side of the body – namely the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, rectus abdominis, obliques, iliopsoas, and rectus femoris; however, the muscles of the back body are often misrepresented.

The author goes on to offer Purvottanasana (upward plank pose) as an effective counter-pose to Chaturanga for addressing balance into the back-body.  I couldn’t agree more; Purvottanasana is an excellent pose to include in your class design as it can provide strength for the rhomboids, posterior deltoids, the errector spinae, gluteals, and hamstrings.

We’ve all experienced the pleasant sensations of coupling updog with downdog and child’s pose with cobra.  Whether it be strength or flexibility, your students will feel grateful  of the sensations of symmetry when you design you classes to balance the front with the back side of the body.  Here are a few more suggestions to try:

  • Navasana (boat pose) with table pose
  • Virabhadrasana I (warrior I) with Parsvottanasana (intense hamstring stretch)
  • Ustrasana (camel pose) with Sasangasana (rabbit pose)
  • Standing head to knee pose with Natarajasana (dancer pose)
  • Dhanurasana (bow pose) or wheel with  Lolasana (pendant pose) or crow pose
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) with Halasana (plow pose)
  • Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) with Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)


  • Renee says:

    Excellent video. Thank you for sharing. Leeann does a fantastic job of breaking down chaturanga dandasana into bite size pieces for students struggling with the pose, and in the specific example, for someone with a shoulder injury. I love the use of props, especially the strap around the arms. The opening movement pattern of protracting and relaxing the shoulder blades is a great way to initiate control and strength into some of the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle. When you have a moment, take a look at my post on winging scapulae as a compliment to this conversation.

  • Anjeanette says:

    Hi there. I’m so glad you posted something on chaturanga dandasana. Leeann Carey, an amazing yoga teacher, agrees that is an amazing upper body workout. She has a free yoga video on this that I think your readers might like: