Start from a seated position with the legs extended out from the body. Flex the feet and energize the legs drawing up the quadriceps muscles and lifting the knee caps. The feet and knees should point up to the ceiling. Lengthen the spine by lifting up from the sitz bones and creating a neutral pelvis. Draw the entire spine into alignment, paying special attention to keeping the back of the neck lengthened and gently engaging the throat lock- jalandhara bandha. The arms reach down beside the body and the palms press down into the ground to create more lift through the spine.
The staff pose can be very challenging even though it is quite simple. Draw the lower abdominals in and back to create more support for the length of the spine. Imagine all the parts of the body that touch the ground are growing into the earth below as the spine lifts up to create an oppositional energy. Try to find space between the legs and torso at the hip flexors by pressing out through the heels.
It is important to keep the spine in a neutral position in this asana. For many students this will mean that a block, cushion or folded blanket is required to lift up the back of the pelvis. The lower back should maintain it’s gentle lordodic (concave) curve. The front of the hip bones (the ASIS) should face forward and the upper most part of the back of the pelvis (the PSIS) should be on the same level as the front. It helps here to imagine the pelvis is a bowl and you are trying not to spill anything out of the bowl. It may be helpful to perform this against the wall with a small towel rolled and placed into the lower back (see modifications). The inner thighs are also very active in this posture, holding the legs together. Look for good foot, ankle, knee alignment on your students and encourage them to continue reaching out in both directions- up through the spine and out through the legs. The hamstrings though stretched will also engage (eccentrically) to press down into the earth.
- Lengthens the spine, and hamstrings
- Strengthens the back muscles, abdominals and quadriceps
- Very grounding and meditative pose
- A great place to practice engaging through the bandhas
- Safe for most students to practice
WATCH OUT FOR
- Posterior pelvic tilt (tucking the tail under) If this is the case have the student sit on a block or bolster or try bending the knees
- Head out of alignment- either lifting the chin up and pressing the head forward, or dropping the chin directly to the chest
- Lack of inner thigh engagement- usually this means the kneecaps are facing outward and the legs can’t stay together
- Rounding in the upper back
- Be careful with students with bulging or herniated vertebral discs. Ensure that they are in a completely neutral position and not rounding in the lower back.
- This posture can aggravate sciatica. Be sure to prop up with a block or ease tension by bending the knees. A small blanket under the back of the knees could help here.
- Sit on a block, cushion or bolster
- Roll a small blanket behind the back of the knees
- Perform with the back up against the wall or with a partner
- Place blocks underneath the hands if the palms do not reach the ground
YOGA COUNTER POSES
- Seated Forward Bend- Paschimottanasana
- Head-to-Knee Forward Bend- Janu Sirsasana
- Dandasana or Staff Pose is a great pose to lead into any seated practice- twists, forward folds, it can also be used as a transition into reclining postures.
Written By: Meghan Aris
Certified in several disciplines of yoga, a pilates teacher and teacher trainer, Meghan is continually widening her path of body/mind studies. At a young age she began her journey into body movement through dance. After being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she shifted her practice to more rehabilitative yoga. In this discipline she found not only the resources to heal her body, but also a guide to living a life full of peace and joy. She can be found teaching on any given day at Fix Health Care