Dandasana | Staff Pose or Stick Pose
What is Dandasana?
Dandasana, pronounced Dan-das-ana, is a seated pose. It is the starting point for all the seated forward bends and twists. Dandasana has many benefits in its own right. As an isometric, whole body exercise without movement, it directly improves your sitting posture. This is vitally important and ensures a firm basis for many more complex poses and movements. Taking time to ensure your Dandasana is correct is a worthwhile exercise that will improve all your yoga practices as well as providing its own beneficial results.
Dandasana is sometimes known as the staff pose. The staff represents the spinal column as straight and strong, vital to the energy of self-awakening that resides inside us all. Unfortunately, many of us have poor posture and habits that result in our spinal columns being neither straight or strong. Slouching, muscle weaknesses and poor manual handling practices result in a weak and unbalanced spinal column. The balance and strength of your spinal column is important for the flow of prana (energy) around your physical and energetic body. On a purely physical level, a strong and stable spine is also necessary to prevent back pain and muscular damage, which can be debilitating and extremely painful.
Dandasana, although relatively simple, is a pose that strengthens muscles deep within the lower back, within the abdomen and inside the pelvis. Strengthening these important muscle groups improves overall posture and builds a solid foundation for the alignment of the rest of the spine. When we habitually assume a good posture, we minimize the risks posed by overworking or overstretching particular muscle groups. Poor posture often means that we compensate by using a muscle group not intended to be used in such a way. This leaves us susceptible to muscle strain, back problems and herniated discs – all of which can cause serious and long-lasting damage.
One of the most important purposes of practising Dandasana is to improve awareness of your spine’s alignment, throughout its entire length. This improvement in your awareness will lead to you assuming a better posture. In time, this improvement will become habitual and the benefits will be felt around your entire musculoskeletal structure.
What are the Benefits of Dandasana?
Practicing Dandasana on a regular basis not only improves your spinal health and strength, it has benefits for other areas too.
The Dandasana pose is believed by many to improve and regulate digestion. It also acts as a tonic to the kidneys and renal system. Simply holding yourself in a more upright position makes it easier to digest food and minimizes episodes of indigestion.
Moving down the body, Dandasana also stretches and activates the muscles of the legs and helps to eliminate the aches and pains that are caused by poor standing or walking postures. This includes helping with sciatic pain, which is often felt in the legs as well as the lower back.
If you often have painful or tired-feeling feet, Dandasana will improve this as it stretches the muscles in the feet and tones the foot area.
Contraindications/Cautions for Those Practicing Dandasana
Dandasana is a simple asana. However, as with all yoga poses, it’s important that you take time to make sure you are doing it correctly to avoid any potential problems. As with all movements, ensure you move slowly. If you experience discomfort, stop and reposition your body.
If you suffer from breathing disorders, such as asthma, bronchitis, or general breathlessness, make sure your back is against a wall. You should also use this method if you have ulcers or suffer from bulimia.
How to Get Into Dandasana
Never force your body into a position that causes you pain. Take your time, especially when you are new to a position. Be aware of how the movement or pose feels throughout your body. Follow our instructions carefully in order to get the Dandasana pose right. Remember, it’s a basic foundation that’s the starting point for all the seated forward bends and twists.
1. Sit on your mat with your spine straight, legs straight out in front of you. Manually, pull the flesh of your buttocks away from your ‘sitting’ bones. This means you’ll be able to feel exactly how you are seated on the ground beneath you. With your hands on the ground beside your hips, keep your fingers pointing forward and your palms pressing down lightly. Check your shoulders to make sure you are not pressing too hard, release any tension. Make sure you don’t lock your elbows. If your arms are not long enough for the heel of your hands to reach the floor, place as much of your hand on the ground as possible. You can also use a block to rest your hands on if you find reaching the ground too much of a stretch.
2. Draw your legs together. Engage your leg muscles, with the thigh muscles rotating inward, your kneecaps facing directly up. Lengthen your calf muscles. Press the backs of your knees into the floor. Your legs should be long and straight. Be firm without being forceful.
3. There are three variations of how to position your feet. The first variation is as follows: your feet should be vertical, the center of your heels resting on the ground. They remain flexed and parallel to each other, with the balls of your heels pressing away from you. You can spread your toes to fan them out. Alternately, your feet can be kept relaxed but maintaining an extension through the top of your foot and into your toes. The final variation is to flex your foot and press through your heel. This engages your legs so your heels lift from the floor.
4. Your back should be at a 90 degree angle (right angle) to the floor. Make sure you aren’t slumping forward or arching your spine. Your chest should be held open, whilst maintaining full length through your back with your tailbone drawing downwards. Your abdomen should feel slightly engaged in the position.
5. Hold your chin parallel to the floor. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed. Allow your shoulder blades drop to relax, drop and move together. Keep your gaze straight ahead.
6. Sit tall, as if there is a string pulling you upwards from the crown of your head. Your legs should feel energized, your torso should feel light.
7. Breathe naturally and smoothly. Hold this pose for as much time as feels comfortable. If this pose is held correctly, after 5 minutes you may break a sweat!
If your back is rounded and/or your hip flexibility is poor you may find it easier to sit on a block or folded blanket. This should also be done if you feel any discomfort in your back or along the backs of your legs. Depending on your flexibility, you can experiment with greater or lesser heights. This enables you to assume a position with a straighter spine. It also releases tension from your hamstrings and hip flexors. Remember, like all poses and positions, with practice, the movement and your muscular control will improve. This will help you feel more comfortable for increasing amounts of time.