Take a seat and uncover the mysteries of Dandasana.
With Kate Dutton
Dandasana, pronounced (dahn-DAHS-anna) is also known as Staff or Stick Pose and is the seed pose for all other seated asana, including twists. It takes its name from the Sanskrit word danda which means staff or stick. It is the shape, the strength, stability and steadiness of this staff that we seek to replicate in our posture. Keeping in mind that we don’t want to have a back as flat as a board, instead let’s stick (no pun intended) with the beautiful, natural curves you were born with and work on creating space and grace in the spine.
Like Tadasana, Dandasana is again a pose with hidden intricacies. If we put the effort in, it will provide us with a solid foundation for healthy alignment of the spine. Sounding familiar? If not, go back and read last week’s piece on the seed pose for standing asana. These two guys are very closely related, in fact you might consider today’s pose to be a seated version of Tadasana. Not quite sure what I mean by that? Well, read on and let’s see if we can explore the pose in our own bodies.
Before you roll out you mat and take a seat, please show caution if you have lower back, hamstring or wrist injuries. As is always the case, this is an invitation to practice and you are free to accept that when and if the time is right for you.
Find a firm surface with enough space to place your legs out in front of you. Grab a neatly folded towel or two, blankets work well also, and sit down on the ground. Take a moment to settle your seat into the ground and find the two boney points in your backside; these are your sit bones and the base of your pelvis. Place your legs out in front of you and notice if it is difficult to straighten them. Can’t get your legs flat on the floor? If your hamstrings are tight they will influence how straight you are able to get your legs and will also affect how straight you are able to keep your spine. They are connected to your sit bones and will pull your pelvis under, rounding out your lower back. If your legs don’t straighten or you feel as though you are collapsing in your lower back, then grab your towels and sit on them; bringing your sit bones to the edge of the stack. You want to feel tall from the base of your pelvis to the top of your head; this is the key part of the pose.
Now focus your attention on your feet, flex them by drawing your toes towards you and pushing out through your heels as though you were standing in Tadasana. Notice the muscles in your leg switch on? Do you feel a little more supported now? Perhaps stronger in your foundation? If it is still too much for your back or legs, then keeping a bend in the knee at this point can help to bring a little ease to the pose but keep the legs engaged.
Next, place your hands on the floor beside your hips with your fingers facing forward; gently pressing into the floor as you reach tall through the crown of your head. Avoid shrugging your shoulders up towards your ears, instead focus on drawing your shoulders back and down. Do you feel more open through the chest when you do this? Perhaps you can feel the broadening of your collarbones along the front of your shoulders?
Let’s bring some stability to our core. As you breathe out, gently draw in the lower abdominals. You still need to be able to breathe so make sure you are not ‘sucking in’ your tummy. If you feel as though your tummy is hollowing, then you are probably sucking it in. You are looking to feel for a soft strength behind the naval and as you engage this area you will feel a little lift in the body and an anchoring through the pelvis. As you breathe in, lengthen up through the crown of your head.
Run a little loop and check back with your connection to the pose. Ground down through your seat and reach up from the crown, push out through your feet and strengthen your legs, engage your core and release your shoulders as you gently place the hands onto the ground. Remember to breathe steadily as you hold the shape. If your breath starts to become ragged or your body is struggling then release the pose. Dandasana can feel quite intense and difficult to maintain for even a few breaths as you develop core strength. Be patient, each time you practice you create an experience for your body to build on; leaving echoes of familiarity with the alignment of correct posture. Your efforts will help to prepare your body for deeper poses, create space and support for the spine to allow the energy to flow freely. You will feel stronger and more open through the front of the body, your diaphragm will move freely and the breath will be fuller and deeper. So not only will your body strengthen and your posture improve but your steady breath will allow your nervous system to calm. There is so very much to be gained from Dandasana and it is well worth the effort and time to get to know the pose and to get it right.
Katie teaches the beginners course. Come and see her:
Monday 7.30 pm
Fridays 5.30 pm
Saturday 6.30 am
Book your class here