The Mountain Pose
To understand the body and interpret asana, it helps to understand the relationship between the planes of the body so that when performing asana, the planes are respected and form the integrity of the body. As with all yoga poses, tadasana helps to balance the musculature of the body creating evenness and as importantly, balance that many people tend to lose.
Grounding and openness
Tadasana is the art of standing in balance on both feet while holding your body upright and open with softness and evenness of breath. This is an elemental position from which all standing yoga poses commence.
This pose is about establishing integrity and openness in the body as represented in the right image where each aspect or plane of the body is consistently expanded and uniform. However, please think of the axial plane as a through section of the ball socket joints of the hips instead of the waist as illustrated in the right image.
There are three versions of this exercise:
- The traditional and more challenging version is done with the feet together so that the big toes, inner heels, ankles and knees touch together. Simply put, one stands as tall, open and as upright as possible with even, deep breathing.
- The 2nd for those with knock knees is to keep the big toes touching and the heels wide enough the knees are not forced together.
- The easier variation is done with the feet hip width (as demonstrated in the video below) apart and the outside edges of the feet parallel. This is best suited for the infirm, beginners and pregnant, but instruction beyond foot position is the same.
Beginning the exercise
- Stand on an even/flat surface with your feet together (or apart if you're unsteady) - ideally your big toes, inner heels, inner ankles and knees will all touch softly together (or be aligned if you have your feet apart).
- Extend down through your legs and elongate your spine upwards to be as tall and open as you can, arms hang loosely at your sides.
- Look up toward the ceiling and keeping the head back, bring your chin down which when done well will further elevate your posture and open the top chest.
- Take a special care that you keep the toes soft and relaxed at all times.
- Allow the body to move, softly back and forward to discover your centre of balance and come to rest. The centre of balance should be slightly forward of the ankle.
- Tone your leg muscles by lifting/firming your thighs
- turn your tail down to prevent the spine over arching
- lengthen up through your waist,
- expand the rib cage,
- open the shoulders back and down,
- bring your head to balance on top of the shoulders and
- extend up through the crown of the head - to get the full lift and openness, tilt the head back slightly and keep the head back as you bring your chin down.
- Gaze passively at a point in the distance (at eye level and centre) which provides a triangulation point to support balance. Alternately, close your eyes and try to balance.
So far so good now you are standing up straight and tall. Or at least you think you are, so to check that you are standing tall, and that your body is even, you can observe yourself in a mirror, but for a side view, you need to have a teacher or someone to be your assistant to check you are straight.
Some people find this a challenge to stand completely still even with their eyes open. But when some degree of stillness and comfort is achieved in maintaining the pose, keep the eyes looking forwards but close the eyelids and maintain your balance.
In doing this, balance is more of a challenge but it has helped by controlling the movement so the body moves around its axis and attention needs to be drawn to the act of extending down evenly through both feet, keeping the toast soft and working to align with the central axis down through the body.
One way to help get this pose is to stand against a wall, flatten you body against it and remember how it feels. Assume that position when you stand away from the wall.
How well you set yourself up in this pose sets a precedent for all the other standing poses. In addition to finding your physical openness and balance, you are looking to establish a calm and focused mind.
This post can be held from 30 or 40 seconds to 5 minutes or more. If you hold for longer, integrate your deep breathing to generate more energy and for focus, keep the eyes looking forward; that is not up, not down not left or right but looking ahead and then close the eyes. This is a profound meditation.
Other variations include extending the arms above the head. 1, have the palms facing each other shoulder width apart and extend across the palms and through the fingers. 2, interlocked the fingers so the palms are facing upwards as you raise the arms above the head and stretch up. In both of these raised arm variations the shoulders will lift so you will need to bring them down and focus on the lengthening through the body.
For people who have tight shoulders hunched up back and respiratory problems, a variation with the fingers interlocked behind the back of the head or neck and working to lift the elbows back without pushing the head forwards can help to remedy these problems over time.
Youtube Images; Shilpa Yoga, Onlymyhealth,