Backward Bends

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose)

Inverted Staff Pose over a chair
Level: All levels

Viparita = reversed or inverted. Danda = Staff.

If having the feet on the floor is too challenging for the lower back, stack the feet up higher, even to the extent of having a second chair underneath.

Organizing the Pose

  1. Fold up a mat and place it on the chair. Bring the chair near a wall.
  2. Sit through the chair and bring the legs together.
  3. Belt the thick part of the thighs firmly together. This is to help prevent the legs from rolling out and shortening the lower back.
  4. Lie back over the chair so that the edge is across the upper back beneath the bottom tip of the shoulder blades.
  5. Plant the feet into the wall.
  6. Either: a) take hold of the back of the chair, b) bring the hands in between the front chair legs and take hold of the back legs of the chair, c) take hold of the elbows and extend the upper arms out alongside the ears, d) extend the arms out and down towards the floor. Each of these arms positions gives the backward extension a different intensity.
  7. Hold this position for several minutes.
  8. To come out of the pose, bend the knees and plant the feet on the floor. Bring the arms into the sides. (If necessary, bring one hand to the head and lift the chin in to the chest first.) Press up through the middle, rolling the chest up.
  9. Sit in the chair with the arms resting on the chair back for a moment to allow the blood pressure to equalize.

Practice Points

  • Roll the tailbone towards the heels and scrub the heels into the wall.
  • Stretch the legs.
  • If this is too strong for the lower back, either put blocks under the feet or do the pose with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Broaden the back ribs.
  • Broaden the chest and collarbones.
  • Roll the shoulders down towards the floor and turn the breastbone towards the throat.
  • Either support the head as shown or do the pose without support (more challenging).
  • Soften the neck.