Digital Asana Project / Yoga Poses

Digital Asana Project – 1.0: Tadasana

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Tadasana, otherwise known as mountain pose, is much more difficult (I think) than it may appear to be. To the untrained eye, a person in tadasana is just standing there. But if you’ve ever taken an Iyengar class and had the teacher yell at you to “lift your kneecaps” and “roll your shoulder blades back”, you’ll realize quickly that there at least ten different subtle motions going on in this pose that you need to focus on. Here’s a list of things I try to think about when in tadasana:

1. Keep the hips and thighs back — people have a tendency when trying to stand very straight to shove their hips forward. This throws the back out of line and compromises the integrity of the pose.

2. Keep the weight evenly distributed on the bottoms of the feet — there is a tendency to lean back in the heels or to take the weight into the toes. To set the feet correctly, you might want to lift your toes way off the floor and slowly spread them back down.

3. Keep drawing the shoulder blades back, but avoid hunching the shoulders up towards your ears when doing so. In fact, draw the shoulder blades down slightly.

4. Extend out through your fingers, almost as if you were shooting laser beams out of your finger tips.

5. Watch the position of your head — don’t let the chin come up too high. Some teachers tell you to imagine a string extending through the crown of your head, pulling you straight up. I find that imagery to be helpful sometimes.

6. Firm the thighs slightly, but don’t clench the buttocks as a result.

7. Feel a slight lifting motion from your kneecaps, but don’t over do it. You don’t want your body to tense up; you just want it to be steady.

8. Watch those ribs. Don’t puff your chest out or shove your ribs forward. Tadasana is not supposed to look like a military officer standing at attention. It’s a different kind of posture than that.

I’m sure there are other things to think about in tadasana, such as your breath and your drishti (focus/gaze, but hopefullly I’ve hit upon the main points.

One good question, however, is why we should even bother with all of this wacky alignment stuff. I think there are a few good reasons for it. First, paying attention to the sublte motions of your muscles and body parts helps bring awareness to what you are doing. Also, the alignment of tadasana really balances everything out so that you feel rooted into the earth. Other standing postures (e.g. the military stance) emphasize the chest, or the hips, or whatever, and are proud expressions of “I” or “me”. By comparison, tadasana is about bringing oneself into alignment with the earth that you stand on, feeling connected to it so you can move into your practice with grace and stability.

Sorry that I don’t have a real picture up yet. I’ll post one soon!

Disclaimer: I am not a certified yoga instructor, and the ideas and opinions expressed here are not intended to be formal instruction on yoga poses. If you plan to start up a yoga practice, or if you have one and plan to do any of the yoga poses described in this blog, please seek out an experienced, living, breathing yoga teacher to guide you with hands-on instruction.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Asana Project – 1.0: Tadasana

  1. not a bad description of tadasana- you must be a very experienced yogi. But, if you are going to be describing to other yogis, you might should have some formal training. Not a criticism, merely a concern/suggestion.
    For those interested Iyengars “Light on Yoga” gives VERY detailed asana descriptions.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Grace! I have a couple of thoughts on what you say.

    First, you bring up a good concern that others may share, and I will put up a proper dislaimer so that people do not think that I am a “certified” yoga teacher. And, yes, Iyengar’s book is excellent, and is one of the very best sources for learning about asanas.

    Second, however, I would like to point out several concerns I have about formal teacher training programs, and the culture of degrees, certification, qualifcation, licencing, etc. that has become so dominant in this country. Certainly, anyone who successfull completes a decent teacher training program will grow as a yogi (and I hope to do one someday soon). Personally, though, I’ve had many certified teachers who were surpisingly unknowledgeable and unaccomplished at yoga. One of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my life actually never took a teacher training program, and, as he says, true knowledge descends directly from teacher to student, guru to devotee; it’s not usually learned in a formal classroom setting or from reading a book or how-to manual or some guy’s yoga blog. If a person really wants to learn about asanas, the best place to do it is on the yoga mat with a great teacher and hopefully with some other dedicated students.

    Importantly, I think everyone should be clear that there is no single, “official”, universally-recognized licensing or certifying body of yoga. Some people think this is a problem; others do not. Yoga Alliance, for instance, does great work, but there are many famous and highly accomplished yoga teachers who lack the proper paperwork, so to speak. Moreoever, Yoga Alliance is not recognized by, say, the U.S. Government or some other “official” entity, so it’s not clear to me from where Yoga Alliance derives its authority. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Yoga Alliance is bunk, buy only that we should not be mistaken into thinking they are like the American Medical Association, or something more properly “official” like that.

    So, my general comment is this. A yoga teacher is not necessarily legit because he or she has completed a formal teacher training program. (On point, Rodney Yee has recenlty expressed his alarm and concern with the growing trend of “certifying” personal trainers to teach yoga through weekend crash courses, despite their having no prior experience with yoga.) Sure, we live in the land of capitalism, and yoga studios have to make money somehow — these teacher training programs often cost several thousands of dollars — and we also live in a country obsessed with credentials, degrees, licenses, etc. But if you want to evaluate a person’s knowledge of and expertise in yoga, listen to what they have to say, and observe their personal practice.

    And let’s not forget that for thousands of years, yogis in India have practiced yoga and taught yoga to others, all without the existence of what we today call “formal” training programs. It’s important, of course, to study with a guru or master yogi, but, in my humble opinion, the line between “formal” study and informal study is much murkier than some people might like to believe.

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