It can take a lot of effort and will to consistently show up for your practice. Some days you may feel too tired to come to class or too distracted by other obligations to practice at home. But when you do make the effort, you know how sweet the results can be. Your efforts can lead to a feeling of overall physical and mental well-being that spills over into the rest of your day.
In Chatush Padasana (Four-Footed Pose), a variation of Bridge Pose in which you grasp your ankles with your hands, you work hard and experience a sense of ease at the same time. Though it’s a strong backbend, it has a soothing effect. The back of the body is actively engaged, creating a strong, stable arch that allows the front of the body to soften, spread, and open. The pose strengthens your hamstrings, buttocks, back muscles, and spine while it simultaneously stretches your quadriceps, groins, abdomen, and neck muscles. Your chest lifts and expands, which leads to longer, deeper breaths. Though the back body is strongly working, the heart and mind are at ease. In the midst of effort, the pose invites you to surrender into an effortless state.
The name Chatush Padasana, which literally means “four foot pose,” contains a teaching. In the pose, it’s essential that your weight is distributed equally among your feet and your shoulders-as if you were standing on four feet-in order to form a steady and even foundation for this soothing backbend.
To explore this, begin your practice of Chatush Padasana by pressing down evenly with the feet as you lift the hips halfway. Rotate the inner upper arms away from the chest to bring the shoulders down and underneath the chest. This action broadens your collarbones and allows you to press the backs of the arms to the floor so that your shoulders can now take a more active part in forming the base of your Bridge. When you continue to lift the thighs, buttocks, and back ribs, you will feel how much more you are able to lift and open the chest.
Taking time to work with the shoulders is essential. If you focus only on lifting the hips, your knees may spread open and your thighs may roll out, which can lead to compression in your lower back. Instead, when you stand on your shoulders and simultaneously press down through your feet, you can open your chest more fully so that your spine arches evenly from a balanced foundation.
While most backbends are energizing, Chatush Padasana has a calming effect on the nervous system that comes from the position of the head and neck in relation to the chest. In other backbends, the head is typically tilted back. But in Chatush Padasana, the strong actions of the arms, legs, and back lift the chest and bring it toward the chin. As the back of the neck lengthens, the chin is gently tucked in toward the chest. In the Iyengar Yoga for Beginner method, this pose is taught as a preparation for Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) and is said to calm the flow of thoughts and relax the mind.
For this reason to do Yoga, this pose is often taught at the end of a practice. It’s a perfect opportunity for you to witness the transformative moment when your physical effort leads you to a quiet mind.