Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Dandasana (Staff Pose) is a foundational seated pose which helps to improve posture and can set the tone for alignment for the rest of your yoga postures.
“Dandasana might seem like an easy pose,” says Yoga Journal contributor Gina Tomaine, “But so many of the facets of the rest of your yoga practice are present in this pose: activated back and shoulders, strong posture, reaching up from the crown of your head and down through your seat, activating your feet. Your alignment in Dandasana is just like your alignment in Tadasana. It can dictate how the rest of your practice will be.”
In Staff Pose, imagine your spine as the vertical “staff” of your torso, firmly rooted in the Earth and the support of all you do. A simple way to check your alignment is to sit with your back against a wall, with your sacrum and shoulder blades touching the wall—but not your lower back or back of the head. (To help keep the lower-back distanced, try putting a rolled-up towel between it and the wall.)
Staff Pose basics
Sanskrit: Dandasana (dun-DAHS-anna)
Pose type: Seated pose
Targets: Upper body
Why we love it: “In Dandasana, the difference among bodies is immediately obvious. Some of use have shorter arms and longer torsos; others have longer arms and shorter torsos. People in that first group (myself included) won’t be able to press their palms into the floor while sitting in Staff Pose. Consequently, we have both an opportunity to see things as they are and accept what we can’t change, and a chance to make friends with props like blocks.” says Yoga Journal contributor Sage Rountree.
This seated posture strengthens the back muscles and improves your posture. It also stretches your upper body, including your shoulders and chest.
Become a member today to access Yoga Journal’s comprehensive Pose Library, which blends expert insights from top teachers with video instruction, anatomy know-how, variations, and more for 50+ poses, including Staff Pose. It’s a resource you’ll return to again and again.
Staff Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin seated with your legs extended forward.
- Bring your hands alongside your hips and straighten your arms.
- Touch your big toes together and keep a small amount of space between your heels.
- Flex your ankles, drawing your toes back.
- Press forward with your big toe mounds. Rotate your inner thighs in and down and press down with your femurs.
- Extend your sternum away from your navel and broaden your collarbones.
- Draw the heads of your upper arms back while softening your front ribs.
- To exit the pose, release your arms and shake out your legs.
- Lay props or a blanket across the tops of your thighs at the hip crease to help ground your thighs.
- To activate your legs in this pose, flex your ankles, pressing out through your heels.
These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- To lengthen your front torso perpendicular to the floor, think of energy streaming upward from the pubis to the sternum, then down the back from your shoulders to your tailbone. Then, imagine your tail lengthening into the floor.
- If your torso is leaning back, it may be because tight hamstrings are dragging the sitting bones toward your knees and the back of the pelvis toward the floor. It may be helpful to sit on a blanket or a bolster to lift the pelvis.
- If you can’t press your palms into the ground, place them on a blanket or blocks instead.
Variation: Staff Pose with support
To help create a forward tilt in your pelvis and prevent slouching, sit on the edge of one or more folded blankets. If you have tight hamstrings or your knees tend to hyperextend, place a rolled blanket under your knee