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Seated Yoga Poses

Staff Pose

It might look straightforward, but there's more to Dandasana than meets the eye.

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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! —Yoga Journal contributor Sage Rountree

Pose benefits

This seated posture strengthens the back muscles and improves your posture. It also stretches your upper body, including your shoulders and chest.

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Staff Pose: Step-by-step instructions

Woman demonstrates Staff Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
  1. Begin seated with your legs extended forward.
  2. Bring your hands alongside your hips and straighten your arms.
  3. Touch your big toes together and keep a small amount of space between your heels.
  4. Flex your ankles, drawing your toes back.
  5. Press forward with your big toe mounds. Rotate your inner thighs in and down and press down with your femurs.
  6. Extend your sternum away from your navel and broaden your collarbones.
  7. Draw the heads of your upper arms back while softening your front ribs.
  8. To exit the pose, release your arms and shake out your legs.

Beginners’ tips

  • 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.

Teaching Staff Pose

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 tail bone. 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 in a chair

Woman demonstrates a variation of Staff Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Sit tall in a chair. Lift your legs off the ground, straighten your knees, and flex your ankles actively. Keep elongating your spine. You may want to hold onto the side of the chair or arm rests of the chair if it has them. Stay as long as you comfortably can.

Preparatory poses

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

Counter poses

Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)