Everyone knows how to stand up straight – or so one thinks. However, Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, is more than just a place to begin – it’s an education in how to hold the body while upright. Time taken to work through this posture is beneficial for one’s posture, state of awareness, and ability to integrate the body and mind. In addition, Tadasana can improve one’s breathing, digestion, and elimination systems.
When one stands, it’s important to check the placement of the feet. Are they pigeon-toed or widely spaced? They should be hip distance apart and pointed straight ahead. In today’s body-hating world, most people are not in tune with where the hip bones actually are, so it pays to look down and check this out. Once the feet are placed, note the balance. One’s weight should be evenly balanced between the heel and the ball. In addition, the toes should be used; to check this, lift them up and then place them down, one toe at a time, from the pinkie toe to the big toe.
Imagine drawing a line from the instep to the back of the knees and up to the hip joint. Knees should not be locked out; a micro-bend will protect the sensitive cartilage, tendons, and muscles in that area. Then imagine that there are handles located directly in front of the hip joints. Grab them and pull the derriere forward so that the spine is neither swaybacked nor hunched over. Once this is done, release the gluteal muscles and relax the lower body without falling out of position.
The shoulders are often out of alignment; to check this, bring them up towards the ears and note that this is not a comfortable position – although this is merely an exaggeration of the normal stance for many people. Pull them back and down, so that the shoulder bones are grounded in the sockets and the back muscles are pulled together and down the back. The chest is neutral, the inner skin of the elbows faces in the same direction as the toes. The head and neck muscles should be relaxed; nod the head ‘yes’ and shake it ‘no’ to make sure.
From here, notice if this alignment feels comfortable, as this will give insight to one’s normal posture. For a challenge, try balancing a magazine atop the head. Is the body steady? Now, without falling out of position, switch the focus to the breath. Notice how much easier it is to breathe with the body balanced. Inhale to a comfortable count (“1….2….3….4” is often a starting point), and exhale to the same count. Repeat this equal breathing two or three times. Notice how the body and the mind are working together to begin a meditative state. If this is the beginning of a Sun Salutation, move in and out of Tadasana mindfully, paying attention to alignment each time.
Tadasana is the starting point for Sun Salutations, and thus the yogi/ni moves through it many times during the course of an average yoga class. It pays, however, to take the time to work on this pose in and of itself in order to reap the benefits of posture and mental focus. Like Savasana, or Corpse Pose, it is an integral part of asana practice, as well as a rewarding bracket for other poses.