Dandasana or Staff Pose is a seated pose which is the foundation for all seated forward bends and seated twists. It looks like an easy pose to practice but I remember as a beginning yoga practitioner that this posture was not at all effortless for me – it can be quite the work out to sit in Dandasana for a while. Experiment with me and let’s take a closer look at Dandasana.
(Note: If you have tight hamstrings and you cannot sit without slouching in your lower back, sit on a few folded blankets until your whole spine is upright)
- Sit on your yoga mat and stretch your legs out in front of you. Bring and keep your legs together and straighten them.
- The center of your heel touches the floor and have your toes spread and pointing upward.
- Place your palms (or cup your fingers) onto the floor just behind your hips and let your fingers face toward the front of your mat. If your arms are too short for this, place blocks under your hand (see above photo). On the other hand if your arms are too long, move your hands further back behind you.
- Have your shoulders just above your hips (not leaning forward or backward). Also let your chin be parallel to the floor and your ears be in line with your shoulders.
- Straighten your arms.
- Press the tops of your thighs and your palms (or fingertips) down onto the floor to lift the spine up and lengthen the sides of your torso.
- Roll your shoulders back and relax them downward.
- Hold this pose for a few breaths before relaxing or proceeding to the next seated pose
Work in the pose for good alignment:
- Extend through the inner legs and feet, so press your big toe mound and inner heel forward. At the same time pull the pinkie toe mounds back so that the balls of the feet press forward evenly.
- Pull the tops of the thighs back toward the hips and ground the tops of the thighs down to the floor. Try to get as much of the back of your thigh onto the floor as you can. This grounding down will help you lift up through the spine. Your torso will be tall.
- Support your spine by pulling the lower abdomen in towards the front of the spine and upward
- Lift your sternum, lift your chest. Watch out that your front ribs don’t push out though, as this will cause your bottom back ribs to collapse onto your pelvis (shortening the back body). The whole circumference of your rib cage should lift up away from the floor.
- Broaden across the tops of the shoulders/ collar bones (it helps to squeeze the elbows towards each other) and let the tips of your shoulder blades move in towards the spine and press into the body (try isometrically pulling the palms/fingertips back to get this action)
Different ways to work in the pose:
Above left picture:
I’m sitting on a blanket with blocks under my palms. I trifolded another blanket and placed it under my thighs just above the knees. Now the back of the thighs have something to press into rather than just hanging in the air. So press the inner and outer thighs down to lift your spine.
Above right picture:
Sit in Dandasana with your feet pressing into the wall. This variation makes it easy to lengthen through the inner legs—all you do is press the foot, especially the big toe mound and inner heel, into the wall. Notice, if you press your heel strongly into the wall, how this straightens the knee!
Above left picture:
This variation feels quite effortless. Scootch buttocks close to the block on the floor (I placed it on its second height). This bottom block helps with pressing the sacrum into the body – avoiding possible slouching in the lower back. The second block is vertical, pressing my thoracic spine (middle back) into the body. Work the Dandasana actions.
Above right picture:
I borrowed this variation from another pose, namely Navasana/Boat Pose. Loop a long yoga strap and place it over your torso. One side of the loop goes around the tips of your shoulder blades, supporting the lift of your chest. The other side goes around the balls of your feet –tighten the strap and push the balls of your feet forward. Work the Dandasana actions.
A little extra credit: work all the actions for Dandasana, making sure you are tall through the sides of your torso. Keep that and reach the arms upward and oh boy,….what a core work-out
- Yoga, The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira and Shyam Mehta, published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 1990
- Iyengar Yoga, The Integrated And Holistic Path To Health by T. and B. Thomas, Xlibris, USA, 2008
- The different variations and the prep work were inspired by the Iyengar classes I attend regularly
Katja Huiras is a 500 hr certified Yoga teacher who teaches alignment based yoga classes in the Lehigh Valley. In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.