Chatuse Padasana, or four footed pose, has two distinct functions. First it is a universally accessible and easy-to-do backbend. You will get all the backbend benefits without all the fear and mental roadblocks you’ll find in other back bending asanas. But the second function and the real magic of this pose is that it introduces the proper shoulder actions in Salmaba Sarvangasana (supported all body pose, or shoulder stand). It also begins to introduce the Jalandara Bandha sternum-to-chin action that will be found in more complex poses later. I teach this to all of my basic students to get them to work towards shoulder stand.
First, you will need a sticky mat and a strap:
Next, roll the spine flat onto the floor using the same instructions from my Savasana post. Please note the head is on the slippery floor and the shoulders are on the sticky mat. This is deliberate.
Raise the feet and place the strap over the front of the shins.
Then place the feet back on the floor with the heels right in front of the buttock bones with the toes pointed slightly inward.
For those with knee issues, move the feet further away from the buttocks.
Keeping the feet in place, lift the hips up slightly
Shift the weight to the left side, and pull firmly on the right strap. Then externally rotate the right upper arm toward the floor. Notice how my chest puffs up when I do this. Then repeat on the other side. This is the important shoulder work I referred to earlier.
Now you are ready for launch. The “four feet” are the upper arms and feet creating a platform to blast the hips into space. Inhale, then push shins toward the armpits and lift up the hips toward the ceiling. Try to move both sides of the body up symmetrically, like an elevator going up a floor. Also move the sternum toward the chin. Pull firmly on the straps. Hold for a few breaths (and don’t hold your breath)!
Exhale and lower the buttocks back to the floor. Repeat several times. The more you do, the better your mood will get! Endorphins are released in backbends creating a euphoria in the mind of the practitioner. Just don’t get too caught up in it.
It is also advisable to do a spine neutralizing pose like a wide downward dog after backbends to de-contract the back muscles. For a back bending sequences, see the “yoga sequences” button on my blog menu.
Have a wonderful practice!