In the treasure trove of a book that is Light on Yoga, the author, renowned yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, writes this sentence regarding Tadasana, or Mountain Pose: “It is…essential to master the art of standing correctly.” The art…? Of standing correctly? I don’t know about you, but when I think of a master of an art form, I think of talented painters, prolific authors, astounding acrobats, amazing musicians; I don’t often think of people who can stand well. Upon deeper inspection, however, we discover something fantastically exciting that yoga continues to teach: that there is more than meets the eye. Amongst the obviousness of physical cues like pressing downward through heels and extending upward through crown of head, there are more subtle skills being honed- awareness and mindfulness- which are powerful and artful skills for a human to wield. As a yoga practitioner mindfully places themselves and makes the shift from misaligned to aligned, Mr. Iyengar states that the results can be the enhancement of spinal elasticity which in turns creates a feeling of being “light in the body” and that “the mind acquires agility.” From the outside it may seem like a far leap to link aligning our bodies with touching more deeply into our creative wealth, but with practice we discover that as we mindfully position ourselves (outside and in), we more easily align with the ever-present flow of energy, which can be exchanged into the currency of our own personal expression of authentic creativity, and our ability to participate in life in an artful, skilled, mindful way.
-Stand with your feel together, big toes touching, heels about an inch apart. Align your feet so your toes point forward, a straight line from the center of your heel through your second toe. If feet together feels too narrow for your balance, body frame, hip and hamstring mobility, or if it is painful due to bunions to join your feet, stand at hip width with the same parallel alignment in your feet.
-Press your feet down and draw energy from the ground up through your legs. Spread your toes, distribute weight evenly, and create life in your feet. Lift your kneecaps by firming your frontal thigh muscles, the quadriceps. Press your shinbones slightly forward and your thighbones back; this creates muscular energy in the legs while keeping the knee joints unlocked.
-Lightly tilt the front of your pelvis up toward your belly button, engaging your lower abdominals. This action preserves the natural inward curve of your lumbar spine (lower back) while reducing any excessive curve there by lengthening your tailbone (coccyx) downward.
-Draw your frontal ribs in so they don’t protrude forward. Lift your sternum and press upward through the crown of your head (avoid lifting your chin) to extend a continuous line of energy from your feet to your top.
-Slide your shoulder blades down your spine and broaden your collarbones, aligning your weight and posture, and easing tension in your neck and upper back.
-Integrate all the actions together. It can be easy to bring your attention and actions mindfully to one area, and then lose what you created when your attention moves elsewhere. Practice the art of standing, and if I dare add on to Mr. Iyengar’s teaching, the art of attention.
-This pose serves as the ground you stand on- your rock, so to speak. Create these deeply integrating actions in all your asanas, especially inverting. Going upside-down is taking Tadasana and simply flipping it topsy-turvy.
By Hannah Riley BVYoga.com