Spinal support in grief.

Dandasana, or Staff Pose, is the base seated yoga posture in hatha yoga practice. Exploring this asana when we are grieving can be helpful as it draws us away from our thoughts and into what our emotions are doing to our body.

When we move mindfully and with engaged curiosity, we gain insight into our deeper self, and sometimes catch the reflection of divinity within. All this can do nothing but good for us on our journey in grief.

As discussed, the effects of grief has ripples throughout our bodies, or koshas, and taking care of one of these koshas is beneficial for all the koshas. So as a yoga practitioner, there is no better time than now to dive deeply into dandasana.

The staff as support.

Dandasana means “staff pose”, derived from ‘danda’. The staff in yogic philosophy and Indian culture is a symbol of support and authority.

In India, yogis are often seen holding a staff, comprised of one bamboo stick, or multiple bamboo sticks.

If there are three bamboo sticks forming the staff, it represents the three gunas – or the three qualities of energy / matter of the universe. The eight threads that bind the sticks together symbolise the eight steps of yoga (ashtanga / ashtau angas).

Sometimes the staff is forked into a ‘Y’ or ‘U’, so that yogis can use the staff for support when they use their prayer beads in concentration or meditation practices (or ‘name meditation’ / ‘nama-japa’) by hooking their forearm through the fork as support. In this case, the staff supports the yogi’s spiritual practices.

The spine as support.

Dandasana – like most yoga postures – requires a long erect spine, in a neutral position. The spine is the support of our torso, Our spine comprises of the vertebrae, joined to each other by ‘articulations'”‘ that allow smooth movement between the bones.

In between the vertebrae are our spinal discs, that hold them apart, and gives space in our spine for the spinal chord and nerves to pass through. The spine is moved by our erector spinae muscles, which include the longissimus, iliocostalis, and spinalis muscles.

Dandasana requires a supple yet strong spine, core muscles and spinal muscles. The muscle that may compromise the practise of dandasana is the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle, due to bad posture arising from (ironically) too much sitting.

Sitting in staff pose.

Dandasana may dictate how the rest of your practice may be. So many facets of other asana are present in this yoga posture. For example, the shoulders and back are activated, there is a strong line of energy from the base of the spine to the crown of your head and your feet are activated as well.

  1. Sit with your legs your legs extended forward
  2. Draw your hands alongside your hips, keeping them aligned with your torso. If you need to straighten your arms, do so. If you need to keep the elbows softly bent, then do so. The total straightness of the arms depends on your own anatomy
  3. If you can, have your big toes touch each other, while maintaining space between your heels. You may wish to push the mounds of your feet / balls of your feet forward, while drawing the toes backward
  4. Keep the quadricep (front thigh) muscles activated so that your hamstrings (back thighs) lengthen. Check that both sit bones are equally weighted in the posture
  5. Draw your sternum upward and away from your navel, while you broaden your collarbones
  6. Gently draw your navel inward while maintaining a tall and neutral spine
  7. Draw the tops of your arms back
  8. Try to get the spinal column perpendicular to the ground throughout your sit
  9. Take five breaths (or more) in this yoga posture and exit the pose by relaxing

As you sit in dandasana, try to pay attention to all the nuances and subtlety of the asana. Try to go through each kosha:

  • Feel all the muscles that require activation, and all the muscles that need to be lengthened in the annamaya kosha;
  • Try to tap into the sensation of energy that requires the activation. Have awareness on the breath. These two capacities are encompassed in the pranamaya kosha.
  • Begin to notice thought patterns that arise – “I am too tight” or “This is too hard / easy” or even “Why am I doing this?” – in the manomaya kosha
  • What can you learn from the noticing of your thought patterns? What do you notice about your self? Do any patterns of mental process arise that you notice? These questions help you delve into the vijnanamaya kosha
  • Finally, just be… and see if you are afforded the opportunity to dive into your anandamaya kosha

When you practise any yoga asana, do take your time to have awareness on the movement, and try to tap into the five koshas that sheath us. Through this, we learn a lot about ourselves, and also derive benefit in our journey in grief.

Dandasana – your gateway to…

Dandasana is your gateway to many other yoga postures, for example: tadasana, down dog, L-Handstand, to name a few postures. It also is your gateway to lifting up into headstand with both legs straight at the same time.

If you would like to learn more about yoga movement, join the Facebook group ‘Yoga for Midlifers’ here. If you’d like a deeper look at yoga movement and postures, check out the digital workshops below.

Have peace in your practice, and contact me if you have any questions. I am happy to help.

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