Experience and Explore the Essential Foundation of Yoga
In yoga, the mind and body are simultaneously engaged; they are connected through our practice. The best place to begin that relationship is in the neutrality and calmness of the traditional standing posture (asana) of the mountain pose (tadasana). Externally, the practitioner simply appears to be standing straight and still. Internally, you must guide yourself through a series of transformations and levels of awareness to achieve the physical and mental state of the strong and steady mountain.
Becoming one’s own yoga coach is one of the essential aspects of learning the science and art of yoga. Here are some basic guidelines for achieving mountain pose. A similar approach can be applied to many other asanas.
1. Start with your foundation
The foundation of any pose is the essential origin of our stability and balance. In the case of mountain pose, your attention should first be directed to your feet. Feel their arches and balls as you press down into the mat. Rock back and forth on your heels and toes as well as the inner and outer edges of the feet. Lift all ten toes up off your mat and spread them as wide as you can, then press them back into the mat. Finally, feel your weight balanced across the surface of your feet. Allow your attention to slowly rise up through the body.
2. Engage the muscles
As your awareness moves upward, engage and energize the muscles of the legs. The action should feel different from contracting or tensing the muscles; rather, you are increasing your awareness of the physical activity within these parts of the body and engaging the energy in the negative space between them. You should feel your knee caps lift slightly as the thigh muscles lift up and the femur bones spiral the legs in towards the midline of your body.
3. Use all your faculties of perception
The external expression of mountain pose is absolute alignment of the body from head to foot. Internally, feel the parts of the body stacked one on top of the other. Observe the sensations of your body. Does your chest and heart feel more open? Do you feel taller, stronger?
4. Experiment with range of movement to understand your neutral position
The core of our body and our spine is the most challenging and complex area of alignment. Use your hands to feel the positioning of your pelvis, low back, abdomen and chest. Begin at the base of the spine. Place the palm of one hand on the lower abdomen and the back of the other over your tail bone and sacral area. Begin to rock the pelvis back and forth to determine your neutral position in which the base of the pelvis is parallel with the earth. Float your hands up to the sides of your abdomen; gently engage these muscles. As you inhale, feel the chest rise up from the abdomen as the spine lengthens. Next, roll your shoulders up and back, bringing the shoulder blades close together, then exhale and relax them down the back, opening the chest and shoulders. Finally, place the back of one hand underneath your chin and the fingertips of the other against the back of your neck. Feel your neck lengthen as you inhale, creating space in the cervical vertebrae as the chin becomes level with the floor.
5. Use the breath
With each breath, you should feel space being created throughout the body. The spine lengthens, the chest opens, the feet root deeper into the ground and the head floats gently above the body as all you fall deeper into the relaxation of neutrality and alignment.
6. Soften the face
The eyes should be closed or softened so that the gaze is toward the nose and the eyelids are heavy. Consciously scan each part of the face, asking the muscles around the mouth, eyes, and forehead to release.
7. Feel the entire vertebrae from tail to head
In tadasana, our spine is aligned in its natural, neutral position. This central axis of our body is also the main channel of energy in our body and the major pathway of our central nervous system, the spinal cord. When this area is free of physical contortions, the energy within our bodies is more open. Spend time in the posture to become aware of this. The time spent in this way will also help the position become more natural in your daily life.
8. Follow your alignment all the way out of the crown of the head
As the energy flows through you, it also flows out of you. Just as your feet become rooted into the earth in this pose, your energy is also flowing upward. The head becomes lighter, as if it were floating above the foundation of the body. Let your awareness follow the path of this energy.
In yoga, asanas such as tadasana should be experienced with the same practice of patience and awareness that we endeavor to apply in our meditation and relaxation. Enjoy the pose and take the time to observe all that it creates within the body and mind.
Origins and Advanced Tips for Tadasana
Mountain Pose is the foundation pose for all standing asanas. Its significance lies in its position as starting and finishing pose for most standing hatha yoga sequences. It acts as a restorative pose during practice and helps all students to regain clarity and focus after more challenging poses.
Etymology of Tadasana
The oldest surviving references to yoga and asan come from the Sanskrit language. All of the poses (asana) are traditionally and respectfully given their Sanskrit name.
Tada – Mountain
Asana – Pose or Posture
Tadasana – Mountain Pose
Variations of the Name Mountain Pose
According to B. K. S. Iyengar in his well loved treatise on yoga, Light on Yoga, Tadasana was traditionally performed with the arms stretched over the head. It seems that for convenience, and practical purpose, Tadasana, has come to be known as the basic standing posture, with the arms by the sides.
However, some yoga schools differentiate between Samasthiti and Tadasana.
Sama – upright, straight, unmoved
Sthiti – standing still, steadiness
Samasthiti – Equal Standing Pose
In most western yoga classes today, Tadasana is used to describe what was previously accepted as the Samasthiti pose.
Extended Mountain Pose is now used to describe the position of mountain pose with the arms extended over the head. The palms maybe pressed together, or the arms maybe directly in line with the shoulders.
Drishti in Mountain Pose
Drishti – eye gaze
The drishti in Mountain Pose is a soft, gentle gaze into the horizon. Think of Clint Eastward in a cow boy film, without the heat, the dust or the squint.
Stance Variations During Pregnancy for Mountain Pose
Pregnant women can decide for themselves when they need to widen their stance in Mountain Pose. There are no cut and dried rules. However, if you feel a strain or out of balance when the feet are placed together, its time to widen the feet so they are directly under the hips.
Also take notice of fluid retention and pay particular attention to tucking in the lower back to avoid strain on the lumbar vertebrae.
Understanding Mountain Pose
Once we have achieved a quite mind, and can be one with our body, its time to understand the significance of the name ‘mountain pose’.
Apart from standing correctly in tadasana, one can enhance their understanding of the pose by drawing inspiration from the name of the position. Allow the image, sensation, feel and atmosphere of a mountain to come to your mind and body. Let the qualities of a mountain pervade your pose.
Visualisation and Unity in Tadasana
Visualisation, and extending awareness throughout your asana practice will take your yoga beyond the physical into a communion with your vision – and in this case, with a mountain.
By remembering that yoga means union, we can utilise all of our senses within our capacity to create and manifest unity by visualisation.