Seated Staff Pose might look easy, but it's an intense strength-builder for the upper back, chest, and abdomen. This pose is the foundational posture for all seated poses, including twists. Because it provides the structural basis for all seated poses, it is essentially the seated version of Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
Its Sanskrit name, “Dandasana” (dahn-DAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words: “Danda” (meaning “staff”) and “asana” (meaning “pose”). Dandasana helps to prepare the body for deeper poses, while enhancing your ability to focus on precise alignment in your body.
Benefits of Staff Pose
Enlightenment is the understanding that this is all, that this is perfect, that this is it. Enlightenment is not an achievement, it is an understanding that there is nothing to achieve, nowhere to go.
Dandasana stretches and strengthens the shoulders, upper back, chest, and abdomen. It improves posture and alignment, and is also known to be therapeutic for sciatica and asthma. This pose helps to calm and steady the mind, encouraging calm focus. Practicing the pose with a smooth and steady breath can relieve stress and improve concentration.
Do not practice this pose if you have a wrist or low back injury. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. If your hamstrings are tight, sit on a bolster or blanket so your torso can be upright and vertical. You can also sit with your back against a wall with your shoulder blades touching it, leaving a space between the wall and your low back.
- Sit forward on your sit bones and draw your thighs to the floor. Flex your feet and press out through your heels. Keep your big toes, inner heels, and inner knees together.
- Strongly engage your thigh muscles around your thigh bones, and activate the muscles surrounding your knee caps. Press your thigh bones firmly down into the floor. Make sure your legs do not rotate outward.
- Stretch your heels away from your body and tilt your pelvis slightly forward, extending the distance between your heel bones and sit bones.
- Do not collapse your low back. Work to lift your torso up from the base of your pelvis. Keep your weight evenly distributed across both sit bones.
- Place your hands on the floor alongside your hips, pressing through your palms with your fingers pointing forward.
- Broaden across your collarbones and lift your chest. Then, broaden across your shoulders. Draw your belly button in toward your spine. Anchor your body through your tailbone and sit tall.
- Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor, and lift the crown of your head to the ceiling. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and gaze steadily straight ahead, toward the horizon. Hold for up to one minute.
Modifications & Variations
Since Dandasana is the foundation for all other seated poses and twists, it's important to learn the correct alignment. Often, this means changing habitual patterns of alignment in your body. Sitting up properly can take some getting used to! Try these simple changes to learn the pose correctly:
- If extremely tight hamstrings make it difficult to sit with your legs straight, place a firm, folded blanket beneath your sit bones. This will release some of the tension in your hips and legs, making it easier to sit up straight.
- If you are still gaining strength in your upper back and abdomen, practice with your back against a wall. As you gain strength, gradually move away from the wall, keeping your spine vertical.
- If your arms are long, it might be difficult to straighten your arms fully in the pose — and that is fine. Just bend your elbows as much as you need to, while keeping your palms flat and shoulder blades releasing down your back.
- If you have carpal tunnel syndrome or very tight forearms or wrists due to weight lifting, practice the pose with your fingers pointing behind you. Place your hands on the floor and externally rotate each arm until your fingers face toward the back. This variation will help to open the upper arm and chest muscles.
In order for the alignment of Dandasana to translate to the rest of your seated poses, it's important to get this basic pose right. Here are a couple of tips to help you sit up straight:
- Keep your weight balanced equally across both sit bones. Gently shift your hips side to side once you are in the pose. Once you are neutral, your pubic bone and tail bone should both be the same distance from the floor and both sit bones should have an even distribution of weight.
- Work the pose from your feet up. Draw the base of your big toes forward, and align your feet, heels, and toes. Then, bring awareness to your ankles. Reach through your heels and ground down through your calves and thighs. Then, find alignment in your tailbone, pelvis, and belly; and then in your collarbones, shoulder blades, arms, and neck. Finally, extend the pose through the crown of your head.
- Align yourself so your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line.
- Check and correct your alignment every time you come into this pose throughout the class, and throughout your day, off the mat.
You can practice Staff Pose any time throughout your normal day. Instead of slouching in a chair to read a book, surf the Internet, or watch TV, sit on the floor and extend your legs. As you practice this pose regularly and consistently, you will gain postural awareness that will bring grace and balance to your life in all areas. Once you get used to sitting up straight, you may find yourself walking taller throughout your day!