Just as Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, is the foundation for all standing poses, Dandasana (Dahn-DAH-uh-nuh), or Staff Pose, is the foundation for all seated poses. It establishes the patterns of muscular engagement, alignment, and breathing that will inform every other pose that is to come once you get down to the floor in your yoga practice.
In many systems of Vinyasa Yoga, Dandasana is returned to time and time again as the preparatory pose done before virtually any seated pose, particularly forward bends, and twists, so it is important to know how to do it correctly.
It is also a powerful pose in its own right and is surprisingly difficult to hold for extended periods of time. It helps to build both strength and active flexibility.
Let’s take a bit of time to explore this incredible pose.
Staff Pose (Dandasana) Contraindications
This is a very simple pose, so there is not much precaution that needs to be taken with it. However, if you suffer from sciatic pain, you may find some benefit from performing a pose that incorporates some external rotation of the hips before holding Dandasana for an extended period of time. Bound Angle Pose, for example.
Likewise, if you suffer from lower back pain and have tight hamstrings, it may be beneficial to perform some poses that help to open the hamstrings, calves, and glutes before holding Dandasana for an extended period. Downward Dog or a Standing Forward Bend, for example.
How to do Dandasana (Staff Pose)
At first glance, Dandasana looks pretty simple. Sit on the floor with your legs together, straight out in front of you, and sit up straight. Most people will be able to do this pose easily, though many will find it quite difficult to sit up straight without pressing strongly into the hands behind the back.
There are different schools of thought on what to do with the hands. Pressing the hands strongly into the floor just behind the hips helps to open the chest and hamstrings but is a bit passive. Simply placing the hands on the floor for a tiny bit of support and not pressing into them forces the deep core muscles of the entire body to strongly engage to keep the spine long and the chest open.
Draw the chin towards your chest and breathe deeply in the pose.
How to do Dandasana (Staff Pose) Step by Step Instructions with Video
Common Mistakes of Staff Pose (Dandasana)
Legs – Make sure the legs are kept tightly together with a very slight internal rotation. That is, don’t let the feet fall out to the side.
Feet – Don’t point the toes. To align the feet, start pressing the heels away from you as far as you can. Then keeping the heels planted, point the balls of the big toes away from you. Then, point the toes back towards your body.
Chest – Don’t let the back round and the chest collapse. Keep the chest open, with the shoulders rolling back and down.
Neck – Draw the chin towards the chest while lifting the back of the head towards the ceiling, rather than dropping the whole head forward.
Breath – Don’t hold your breath! The real challenge in Dandasana is to maintain a stable pose with your core engaged while breathing comfortably in and out of a soft abdomen.
Variations and Modifications of Staff Pose (Dandasana)
If your back is rounding drastically in Dandasana, place a folded blanket or two underneath your sitting bones to elevate your hips until you can maintain a straight back. You could even sit up on a yoga block, just remember to place some support under the knees as well so they don’t hyper-extend.
One way to make the pose more challenging is to lift the hands up towards the ceiling with the palms facing towards each other while maintaining an open chest. You could even place a block between the hands and press into the block to add some resistance.
The Benefits of Dandasana (Staff Pose)
1. Dandasana teaches you how to forward bend properly.
Because holding your self upright in Dandasana requires you to engage the fronts of the legs and the deep core muscles of the lower back and abdomen, it sets the correct pattern of engagement for any forward bending poses that are to come. Moving into poses with stable, active muscles, rather then simply dropping into passive flexibility, helps to calm the nervous system and reduce the risk of repetitive strain.
2. Dandasana is one of the best poses for building your core strength.
If you keep your legs and back straight in Dandasana, you are being held upright almost entirely by your deep core muscles. The Psoas in the hips and upper leg, the Erectors Spinae in the lower back, and the Transverse Abdominus in the lower abdomen are all strongly engaged. This can help to build balance and control in all of your movements in both yoga and daily life.
3. Dandasana helps to improve your posture.
Because Dandasana is essentially about maintaining a long and straight spine while under a load, it makes it much easier to maintain correct posture while standing, sitting, or walking. Good posture not only helps to reduce the risk of strain in the body, but it also helps to maintain your energy levels and present a charming, engaging manner towards others.
4. Dandasana teaches you how to breathe properly in your yoga practice.
In order to stay sitting up straight in Dandasana and breathe into a soft and mobile abdomen, it requires you to isolate the Transverse Abdominus muscle, the deep core muscle that supports your posture, from the Rectus Abdominus muscle, the main muscle of diaphragmatic inhalation. This is the key to maintaining a meditative mindset while performing an otherwise physically intense yoga practice. The word bandha is often used to describe this pattern, though this is only one of the many definitions of that term.
5. Dandasana teaches us about our energy bodies.
Dandasana requires a strong awareness of the core of the body, particularly the pelvic area. Plus, the breathing pattern results in a pronounced upward flow of energy if the posture is held firmly upright. This makes it an ideal pose for exploring the concept of prana or energy and it’s flow through the chakras or the energy centres of the subtle body.
Dandasana is a powerful pose that can open up a whole new aspect of our yoga practice.
However, because it’s so important, it’s crucial to learn it’s subtleties with an experienced teacher.
Our team of teachers carry a lifetime of intense yogic practice and education into their teaching and can guide you towards a deep and fulfilling practice that you can sustain throughout your entire life.
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