Do you struggle to find comfort in Dandasana (Staff Pose)? This pose is suppose to be one of rest, a returning to center pose between seated postures. Yet so many of us struggle in it. As my yoga colleague and friend, Matt Sanford, once said, “This pose is the one that makes you think you suck at yoga.” Eloquently put and quite accurate, don’t you think? Now if you are very strong through your core and open in the hamstrings, you needn’t read on. (Unless you are teach in which case you must read on!)
This pose plagued me for years. (Okay, I admit, 20 years — I just figured it out quite recently!) I had tight hamstrings and really struggled to stay upright. It was far from effortless and the struggle rippled through my body. The goal of the pose (as in all poses) is to engage well. To use the legs and the core strength to sit in an effortless pose. (I will write more about that thought in another post.)
Many students do not engage the legs well enough so their heart sags. (Try it. Sit in the pose. First, engage the legs and sit tall, then relax the legs. Notice what happened?) Then they grip the hip flexors and tense the back to get upright. Add to that the tight hamstrings that many of them have and the pelvis is now rounded backwards, adding more tension and discomfort to the back.
While there is much I can write about the pose (and I am sure I will in future posts!), I am using this post to share a variation to help you with learning to feel more ease in the torso and hip flexors.
To retrain the body in the pose, do the pose with your back to a wall, sitting about 6 inches away. Place a yoga block between your sacrum (the back of your pelvis) and the wall. Scooch (technical, Sanskit term) as close to the wall as you can so the block is pressing firmly into your sacrum. If your hamstrings are very tight, just bend the knees a bit (for the purpose of this exercise.) Feel your sitbones on the floor and extend through the body from the sit bones. Get very tall. Allow your shoulders to release down, drawing your shoulder blades gently into your back. If you can have your legs straight, reach through them. If you tend to grip your hip flexors, this variation will allow you to soften them deeply.
Well, what do you think? Effortless Dandasana here you come!