How to Do Staff Pose (Dandasana): Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Staff Pose
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Hamstrings, 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.

How to Do Staff Pose

Grab a yoga mat or towel if you need extra padding on a hard floor.

  1. Sit with your legs extended straight in front of you. Sit 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.
  2. Engage your thigh muscles and flex both feet. Your heels may come up off the floor, but do your best to keep them rooted on the mat for engagement. Bend at the knees if needed.
  3. Stack the shoulders directly on top of the hips. Release your shoulders away from your ears.
  4. Hold your arms straight and 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.
  5. Inhale to lengthen your spine.
  6. Stay, if possible, for five deep breaths with the legs fully active.

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.

Other Variations of Staff Pose

Whether you're experiencing hamstring tightness or want more of a stretch, there are a couple ways to modify classic staff pose.

Add Props for Tight Hamstrings

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 in part because of its simplicity and direct attention to the hamstring muscle. Props can help in easing some of this discomfort and in helping you graduate to more difficult moves.

Tips

  • 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.
  • Invite the legs to gently bend if you find it challenging to straighten the legs or difficult to lengthen your spine. 

Hold a Deeper Stretch

If you're up for a challenge, consider holding staff pose for longer. Stay for 10 breaths with the legs fully engaged the whole time and practice yoga breathing exercises to still your mind and your body, bringing attention to the leg muscle stretch.

Alternatively, for a deeper stretch, take this pose into a Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) and deepen the extension in the back of your legs and calves.

Common Mistakes

Leg Position

Do not allow your legs to rotate outward, they should be straight in line in front of you. Keep your toes pointed to the sky, engaging the soles of your feet as you breathe in and out.

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. The more you practice this pose — and the more your flexibility improves — the less back rounding you'll naturally do.

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.

Add in props to help the stretch if your tight hamstrings are aching. Foam roll after this stretch to further loosen the tight muscles.

Try It Out

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

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Grabara M, Szopa J. Effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in women over 50 years old. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(2):361-365. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.361

By Ann Pizer
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.