How to Do Staff Pose (Dandasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

staff pose
Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Melissa Castro Schmidt

Targets: Hamistrings, calves

Level: Beginner

Staff Pose (Dandasana) gives you the basic alignment used for most other seated yoga poses. Think of it as a seated version of Mountain Pose (Tadasana), which is the basis for standing poses. The most important part of this pose is finding your spine in an upright position that is sustainable. This may mean sitting up on a blanket or two. In a typical yoga practice, Staff Pose leads into a Forward Bend.

Benefits

Staff Pose stretches the hamstrings and calves and improves spinal awareness. If you run or play sports that have a lot of running, it is likely that you have tight hamstrings and calves. This pose can help restore some flexibility and it may help you improve your posture. It is also a pose that might help when you feel sciatica pain, although you should avoid following it with Forward Bend.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Sit with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. You want to be sitting on your sit bones as much as possible. To that end, take hold of the flesh of each buttock and move it out of the way. This results in a much more grounded feeling.
  3. Engage your thigh muscles and flex both feet. Your heels may come up off the floor.
  4. Stack the shoulders directly on top of the hips. Release your shoulders away from your ears.
  5. The ideal version of the pose has the arms straight and the palms flat on the floor on either side of your hips to support your spine. However, arm lengths vary so there is some discretion to bend your arms slightly or shift the placement of your palms.
  6. Inhale to lengthen your spine.
  7. Try to stay for five deep breaths with the legs fully active.

Common Mistakes

Leg Position

Do not allow your legs to rotate outward, they should be straight in line in front of you.

Rounded or Flat Back

Don't let your lower back collapse or round, you want to maintain the natural lumbar curve you get when you are elongating your spine from your hips to the top of your head. Practice Staff Pose with your back against a wall and only your shoulder blades and sacrum touching the wall, not your lower back. Tight hamstrings can contribute to rounding your back, so Staff Pose will be easier to achieve as you build hamstring flexibility.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

Sitting flat on the floor with your legs outstretched may look like the simplest thing in the world, but when you try it, you may change your mind. In fact, many people find this position profoundly uncomfortable. Props can help.

  • If it's hard for you to sit up straight and you find you have a rounded back, place a folded blanket under your seat. Raising the hips really helps here.
  • Use blocks under your hands if your palms don't touch the ground.

Up for a Challenge?

  • Take this pose into a Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana). 
  • Challenge yourself to stay for 10 breaths with the legs fully engaged the whole time.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid Staff Pose if you have an injury to your wrist or back. If you feel any pain during the pose, back out of the pose.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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