help please

16 Dec

No matter how hard I try, I just can’t figure out Dandasana. Sitting with legs outstretched, hands straight under shoulders, pressing into hands. Sounds simple, looks simple, but I simply cannot find that pose without a slight rounding of the spine.

 Are my arms too short? That’s what I’ve been telling myself for years now. There are many challenging poses for me, but I feel like I can work towards them. Something simple like Dandasana? It feels like a lost cause.

What do you think?

16 Responses to “help please”

  1. Julie December 16, 2007 at 7:56 am #

    I’m with you sister! If I sit up straight chest out as I’m so often told, my hands will not go flat, it is physically impossible! I have even tried to get there by lowering my shoulders as much as possible, yet still the heel of my hands still don’t touch the mat. I have the same problem trying to lift of the ground while in lotus (what’s that one called?). The only way to get my butt off the mat is to crunch myself up into a ball to get my hands flat, and at my best I am a whopping 1/2″ up. Last week in Ashtanga while struggling to stay afloat in this pose I lifted my head only to see the person right across from me levitating 3-4″ off the mat with her hands perfectly flat! Just a reminder that genetics are a powerful force. At least we can always find sweaters that aren’t too short in the sleeves!

  2. barefootbhakti December 16, 2007 at 8:14 am #

    Let’s invent the 2 inch high brick… that’s the only way I can figure it out. Well, we’re taking the kids to see Santa tonight and I’m planning to slip in line and ask for longer arms for Christmas, and maybe new hips and quads of steele and ….

    maybe a little Santosha. I’ll let you know if he delivers.

  3. greenfrog December 16, 2007 at 10:32 am #

    I had a class with Cyndi Lee one time that was very good for me, principally because she made the point that yoga was invented in India for fourteen year old boys who never sat on chairs in their entire lives, and even then various poses only worked for people with arms of a particular length and legs of a different particular length.

    Take a 4″ foam block and slice it in half. I’m reasonably certain that yoga Gods will allow it.

    I loved the ashtanga sequence video you linked to, because it suggested to me several things I’d like to try, but much though I like it, I also kind of suspect that several of them just won’t work for this 45-year-old guy with a tricky low back, a cranky right shoulder, and a 6’3″ frame.

    What is cool is that the important part of yoga works whether your Dandasana looks like another person’s or not.

    All that said, perhaps you could try turning the pose into a little bit of a backbend, arching your heart forward. That should make it easier to tilt your pelvis to vertical (or slightly forward), and should shorten the length of your vertical axis, which might get the palms of your hands closer to the floor. Of course, jumping from Down Dog into such a back-bent pose could be seriously dangerous (even assuming it were possible), so if that’s the vinyasa flow you’re thinking of, you should probably go back to chopping the foam block in half.


  4. olddude December 16, 2007 at 11:24 am #

    Go back and to dadasana just before the finishing posture and breathe for five or ten breaths and reevaluate your concepts of your limitations.

  5. barefootbhakti December 16, 2007 at 12:28 pm #

    Ok…I’ll play with it tomorrow morning… thanks for the suggestions! I’ll update later and see if it helps.

  6. barefootbhakti December 16, 2007 at 2:40 pm #

    You know what I like about you? You really know how to mix it up… ashtanga, iyengar, buddhist, Mormon, lawyer… you seem to go wherever it works. Somewhere in the cosmic link, you and I are on the same page. I was just commenting to my classes about how yoga was practiced way back when by very emaciated renunciate men, so us girls have to find our own way sometimes. Then, this morning, I was listening to yoga peeps on the way to yoga class and it was a Cindy Lee interview.

    That ashtanga video is great inspiration… it’s so rare to see something like a jump back done gracefully the way it was meant to be practiced. I may never be able to contort into all of the Astanga poses, but the details of the practice are making a difference for me. I’d stopped jumping back because I knew I was just jarring my spine, but now I’m playing with pushing into the hands and lifting my hips up first so I can press back instead of “jumping”. It’s making a big difference, and reminds me that it’s time to go catch a couple of classes with Clayton again so I can clean up my act!

  7. Lisa December 17, 2007 at 5:44 am #

    Hi Laurie, far be it from me to give advice about yoga poses. But I asked my friend Sara about this very thing one time. Lo and behold, she just posted about it again! For some reason, I couldn’t copy the link, but her blog is, and the second post down is called “Ask S.G.” – she addresses “too short” arms there. By the way, her blog is great. She’s also a graphic designer…her other site, which is great too, is or She also has some audio yoga classes on her blog….

  8. barefootbhakti December 17, 2007 at 11:15 am #

    Lisa… thanks for that link, there are some awesome tips there. But I think she’s helping me prove my point. She said,

    “Jump-back vinyasas from seated/arms too short: Nope, sorry, you can’t blame it on your arms. Everybody thinks their arms are too short and that’s why they can’t swing back through to chattaranga, but it really is just a strength thing. Try this… siit on the floor, flat on your butt. Now, place your hands on the floor next to your hips, not leaning forward at all — keep your spine perfectly straight. Now, do your palms reach the floor? Are they flat on the floor? If so, your arms are plenty long enough.”

    I actually think there’s hope for my jump backs/jump throughs, because you can shorten the torso for that. But Dandasana… grrr… when I place my hands on the floor next to my hips with my spine straight, nope… the palms of my hands are not flat on the floor. Short arms. My dandasana will have to have it’s own creative expression!

  9. greenfrog December 17, 2007 at 10:17 pm #

    You really know how to mix it up… ashtanga, iyengar, buddhist, Mormon, lawyer… you seem to go wherever it works. Somewhere in the cosmic link, you and I are on the same page.

    It has been fun to find you on the web. As for being on the same page, if I understand things correctly, not only are we on the same page, we are the same page. (I’ve been poking around ideas of consciousness recently, and I’m beginning to think that there’s one, rather than many — which would provide a different slant on being children of God.

    That ashtanga video is great inspiration… it’s so rare to see something like a jump back done gracefully the way it was meant to be practiced.

    That was exactly the part that captured my attention, as well. I’ve been plotting some low back strengthening exercises to see if that makes a difference. This weekend, I used a little back and a lot of quads to pop from half-lift to a momentary and severely corrupted-looking version of handstand, and then dropped down to low plank from there. As ugly as it was, I could feel a bit of the low-back mechanics of what I saw in that video, but mine was forced and (frankly) a bit weird. Not calm or smooth, let alone peaceful and elegant.

    Even so, I think it’s the right direction for me. And I’m seldom happier than when I’m on the mat with something to work on.

    be well.


  10. barefootbhakti December 18, 2007 at 2:08 am #

    Checking in after practice today. Heel of the hand is about 2 mm above the floor. I made fists because I just wanted that energetic connection of lifting the chest from the hands. Interesting.

  11. greenfrog December 18, 2007 at 7:30 am #

    Curious about the arm-length thing — are you able to lift your pelvis off the floor in Upward facing dog, while drawing your heart forward?

  12. barefootbhakti December 18, 2007 at 8:53 am #

    Good question, yes I hit a pretty nice Urdvha Mukha. So, it leads me to believe that my meaty glutes might be the culprit!

  13. greenfrog December 19, 2007 at 12:13 am #

    When I have my students move into Paschimottanasana, my usual instruction is “if you’re lucky enough to have any, shift the flesh of your glutes to the sides so you can feel your sitz bones pressing into your mat.” When I get chuckles, I point out that sitting without flesh, or even with just a little bit of flesh, would be really, really uncomfortable.

    Part of the difference between Dandasana and Urdvha Mukha may be the backbend, as well, as any arc will shorten the vertical distance.

  14. Danelle January 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    Here’s one for ya…I’m super strong and have extra long arms and it’s very difficult for me too…go figure. I’m going with “my legs are too long!”

  15. Running from 30 September 7, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    How’s this going for you? I’m having this same problem and have not been able to find any advice on getting it better!

  16. Barefootbhakti September 8, 2009 at 12:38 am #

    Blocks… I’m using blocks. My arms really are too short, so I’ve decided to either make fists if I’m in a fast-paced class, or use the 1/2 width bricks if I want to experience the length and essence of dandasana. Ah, peace.

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