Staff Pose

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). The most important part of this pose is finding your spine in an upright position that is sustainable. This may mean sitting up on a blanket or two.

Its Sanskrit name, “Dandasana”, 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. In fact, many people find this position profoundly uncomfortable. The point here is not to grit your teeth and get through it but to find a way to make the experience better. Props can help. If your spine wants to round forward when you sit flat on the floor, some height under your seat can make a big difference.

Benefits of Staff Pose

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.

How to Do Staff Pose (Dandasana)

  1. Sit with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. You want to be sitting on your sit bones as much as possible. To that end, take hold of the flesh of each buttock and move it out of the way. This results in a much more grounded feeling.
  3. Engage your thigh muscles and flex both feet. Your heels may come up off the floor.
  4. Stack the shoulders directly on top of the hips. Release your shoulders away from your ears.
  5. The ideal version of the pose has the arms straight and the palms flat on the floor on either side of your hips to support your spine. However, arm lengths vary so there is some discretion to bend your arms slightly or shift the placement of your palms.
  6. Inhale to lengthen your spine.
  7. Try to stay for five deep breaths with the legs fully active.

Staff Pose for Beginners

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!

  1. If It’s hard for you to sit up straight, place a folded blanket under you seat. Raising the hips really helps here.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Staff Pose for Advanced

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. Keep your weight balanced equally across both sit bones. Align yourself so your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line.

  1. Take this pose into a forward bend, also known as paschimottanasana.
  2. Challenge yourself to stay for ten breaths with the legs fully engaged the whole time.

Sit Tall

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!