In India, accomplished renunciates traditionally carry a staff or stick, called Danda in Sanskrit, indicating that they have earned the title Danda Swami. The straight, strong staff is symbolic of the spinal column and the energy of self-awakening that resides in each human being.
Unfortunately, for most of us, however, our spinal columns are neither straight nor strong. Habitual slouching, chronic tension, stiff lower backs and hunched shoulders leave us unable to sit or stand with the effortless ease of a balanced spine. So, how do we build a vertical axis that steadies and supports our life’s journey?
We can begin by taking a look at STAFF POSE or DANDASANA. Like Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Dandasana is one of the classic yoga foundation poses and prepare us for the more intense poses. It is a simple seated pose that strengthens the deep muscles of the lower back, the abdomen, and the muscles deep in the pelvis. This improves overall posture and builds a solid foundation for the healthy alignment of the rest of the spine.
Improved posture helps prevent the overworking or over stretching of any one muscle group and contributes to stability and comfort in all activities. On the other hand, a habit of poor posture can lead to serious back problems, including a greater chance of muscle strain and herniated discs. So a key element of the practice of Dandasana is to cultivate awareness of the spine’s alignment from the tailbone all the way to the crown of your head and to use the strength of the practice to transform your habitual posture.
- Sit erect on the ground, with your back straightened and your legs stretched out in front of you. Your legs must be parallel to each other, and toes should be pointed upwards.
- Press your buttocks on the floor, and align your head in such a way that the crown faces the ceiling. This will automatically straighten and lengthen your spine.
- Flex your feet and press your heels away from you.
- Place your palms next to your hips on the floor with the fingers pointing forward. This will
support your spine and also relax your shoulders. Your torso must be straight, but relaxed.
- Relax your legs, and ground the lower half of your body firmly to the floor.
- Breathe normally, and hold the pose for about 20 to 30 seconds.