Create Space in Your Lower Back and Hamstrings With Staff Pose (Dandasana) Prep
Article At A Glance
Try the following simple preparation for Staff Pose (Dandasana) intended to help encourage release through your hamstrings and around your lower back to help you find neutrality in your spine and a more enjoyable Staff Pose. A practice video is included in the article.
Staff Pose (Dandasana) is typically practiced with the spine perpendicular to the floor, and the legs outstretched. And while this traditional alignment is wonderful for creating length through the spine and the backs of the legs, it’s not the only way to practice Dandasana.
This traditional alignment can feel unattainable for practitioners with tighter hamstrings or lower back muscles. It can put too much strain on the hamstrings, which, in turn, pull against the pelvis and, ultimately, the lower back. This can draw the pelvis into a posterior tilt and the lumbar spine into a kyphotic curve (rounded shape).
Any position with the legs outstretched and the hips flexed can challenge the length of the hamstrings and the neutrality of the lower spine. So, the following simple preparation for Dandasana is intended to help encourage release through your hamstrings and also to release tension around your lower back to help you find neutrality in your spine.
This prep for Staff Pose will alter the hand and leg positioning in a few different ways to offer you a unique and more isolated stretch that is significantly more accessible than the traditional Dandasana alignment.
Try This Dandasana Variation to Create Space in Your Lower Back and Hamstrings
This Staff Pose prep isolates one leg at a time, so it will expose any asymmetries from side to side in your body. For this variation, you’ll need two blankets (or towels) and a strap (or belt).
- Fold your two blankets into a classic rectangular fold and layer them on top of each other in the center of your mat.
- Sit on top of your blankets, with your sit bones toward the front edge, and stretch your legs out straight in front of you.
- Alternate leaning your weight toward the left and right sides of your hips as you lift one sit bone up at a time, and use your hands to draw the fleshy part of your buttocks back until you can feel your sit bones firmly rooted into the blankets beneath you. Allow this to establish a neutral lordosis (inward curve) in your lower back.
- Loop your strap around the ball of your right foot.
- Bend your left leg and draw your heel in close toward your left hip.
- Without movement, isometrically (energetically) draw back against the strap with your hands.
- As much as you can, flex your right ankle to draw your toes back toward your face. Simultaneously, press the ball of your right foot forward against the pull of the strap.
- Level off your hips and strive to keep your weight equally distributed between both sitting bones rather than leaning off to one side.
- As much as you comfortably can, stretch your right leg toward straight. Tone your quadriceps by lifting your kneecap up toward your pelvis to allow your hamstrings on the back of your leg to relax.
- Elongate your spine by stretching your sitting bones toward the floor and lengthening the crown of your head toward the sky. Avoid the tendency to allow your lumbar spine to reduce its curvature and slump backward. Lift your spine up away from your pelvis as if trying to create a greater distance between your ribs and your pelvic bowl. Lengthen both sides of your waistline equally.
- Deepen your breath and slightly expand your chest in this shape. Broaden your collarbones and open the front of your heart space. Ever so slightly, draw your shoulder blades closer toward your spine to broaden your chest.
- Hold for a few deep breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
- After you’ve held both sides for an equal length, finish by equalizing your body with both legs extended forward in front of you in a more traditional Dandasana alignment.
- Maintain the length of your back body and the subtle curvature of your lower back. (To do so, you may need to elevate your hips higher by sitting up onto more props.)
- Keep your legs engaged as you press the balls of your feet away from you and simultaneously draw your toes back toward your face.
- You can either keep the strap looped around both feet or, if it feels appropriate, release the strap and plant your hands just slightly behind your hips. If you take this variation, root down into the heels of your hands to draw your shoulder blades up, back, and down your ribcage to further broaden your chest.
Video Tutorial Staff Pose or Dandasana Variation
Even though Dandasana may look like a fairly straightforward and “simple” posture, there really are a lot of engagements happening throughout the body to maintain the shape.
For practitioners with tight hamstrings or lower back muscles, Dandasana can feel inaccessible. But it doesn’t have to be! By utilizing props and modifications to prepare for this pose, you can experiment with different variations and target different angles of the muscles to find relief and comfort in the shape.
Try this simple prep pose for Dandasana and see if it helps you to better align with your own unique anatomy in order to create space in your lower back and hamstrings.