Come into a seated position toward back of mat.
Straighten legs, bring ankles together.
Place palms or fingertips on floor outside hips.
Flex feet, straighten arms, lift torso upright.
Extend inner edges of feet forward, pull outer edges of feet back.
Curve low back in so that spine is in a neutral position (more doable: bend knees 4-6 inches, separate feet outer hip-width apart or sit on a yoga block and straighten legs).
Lift chin slightly, look straight ahead.
Tone thighs, tighten kneecaps, firm hamstrings.
Press legs into floor.
Squeeze legs together.
Lift chest, stretch spine.
Staff is a stage 1 forward fold. It’s not a pre-forward fold; it’s a forward fold in its own right. In dandasana, straight legs + tight hamstrings = rounded low back. If the low back starts off rounded in stage 1, it will end up compressed in stage 2. Instead of bending knees, sitting on a block or blankets is also an option.
The shape of the body in staff is similar to that of downward facing dog. The primary difference between them: the body’s relationship to gravity; the position of the arms; the shape of the feet. Seeing similar shapes in different poses is key to understanding the art of sequencing. You might also notice a similar relationship between downward facing dog/forward fold and staff/west stretch. In an expertly taught asana class, one pose leads and paves the way to another. Shape alone is not enough; safety and strength are equally essential.