Staff pose is a seated yoga posture. It’s usually added into flows as a warm-up or cool-down pose because of how gentle and relaxing it is. This pose takes no strength and little flexibility and can be found paired with a seated forward fold. It’s a pose used before a fold and is the base of most seated poses.
Staff pose focuses on alignment more than anything. The alignment found in this pose is what will help a person find their alignment in all other poses, including more challenging alignments. The shape of staff pose is determined by each individual body. Everyone looks different in this pose because everyone has different and unique body proportions.
The basics of staff pose
Staff pose, which is known as Dandasana in Sanskrit, is a pose that requires good posture. Due to this pose heavily relying on alignment, the spine becomes one of the biggest targets. The upper body is the main target in this pose, and it needs to be completely straight and supported the entire time that someone’s in the pose.
This pose is relatively easy and may require some props for those who have shorter arms than their torso. This is not a problem and says nothing about a person’s capability, it’s even better because that person gets to explore and learn more about their body. Everyone can do this pose, which makes it a beginner-level pose.
The benefits of practicing staff pose
Staff pose requires a straight and lengthened spine when in the pose. This automatically strengthens the spine over time and improves posture. The focus on the upper body stretches the back and front torso. Areas like the chest and shoulders get a good stretch in this pose.
It sets up the alignment needed for more difficult poses and even the seemingly easy poses. Many forget about alignment when focusing on all the other things that may come with poses like balance, strength, and muscle engagement. Staff pose ensures that alignment is ingrained and learnt properly so that it’s never forgotten, especially in other poses.
How to do staff pose
Step by step instructions for getting into the pose
- Begin in a cross-legged seated position. In this pose, already check to see that you’re sitting on both sits bones evenly. Don’t lean on one side more than the other.
- Straighten the spine and ensure that no rounding is happening, especially in the lower back. You can use a wall and press your back against it to make sure that the spine is lengthened.
- Slowly begin to extend the legs straight out in front of you whilst staying on both sits bones and keeping a straight spine.
- Bring the feet together to touch so that the legs are flushed together and not splaying out to the sides. Flex the feet up towards your face and keep them engaged. Don’t let the feet dangle down.
- Flex the hands and bring the arms to the side of the body so that your hands can come flat to the floor. Once here, use your hands to push into the floor to help keep the spine lengthened. If the hands don’t reach the floor, try using blocks or books of an appropriate size.
- Keep the gaze straight ahead so that the neck is in line with the spine and not crunching.
- Stay here for 5-10 breaths before moving back into a cross-legged seated position.
Common mistakes made when doing the pose
The biggest mistake made whilst doing staff pose is people round their spines to get their hands to touch the floor. This defeats the elements that make the pose, which is to maintain a straight posture and be perfectly aligned. There’s no need to round the spine because all sorts of props can be used so that no matter the length of someone’s arms, they can still have their hands flat on something, and keep the spine lengthened.
Another thing that people do in staff pose is they round their shoulders and forget to broaden their collarbone. The chest must be open in this pose for it to feel a good stretch and to keep a stable posture. A rounded upper back still makes for a bad posture.
For those who are trying out staff pose for the first time, take it slowly. There’s no need to rush into the pose because then all the alignment cues will be forgotten. Have some props next to you before going into the pose in case you need them. If the hands don’t reach the floor, use the props.
Work from the ground up, going through the whole body, to make sure that everything is aligned. Check to see that you’re not leaning on one side more than the other or that you’re not gripping into anything. Relax into the pose and breathe deeply.
If someone is experiencing lower back, spine, glutes, or wrist pain they should avoid staff pose. If someone’s injured in any of these areas, then they should also avoid the pose. If any pain is felt whilst practicing the pose, then it should not be done, and the person should back off from the pose. Always consult a doctor or physician before going into any physical exercise or movement, and always listen to your body.
To make staff pose easier, or more achievable, use props on your sides. This pose can also be done with the fingertips on the floor instead of a flat palm. If the fingertips reach the floor, then a block or book would probably be too tall to work for this pose. If someone is struggling with posture and still working on it, and they find maintaining a straight spine difficult, they can place a blanket under the sits bones. This will make it easier to sit up straight but will require props to be used on the sides so that the hands can be flat on something.