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.