I remember when I took my very first yoga class. It was the start of an eight-week beginner course and it was filled with a cross-section of wide-eyed students eager to learn. The teacher was one of the senior Ashtanga instructors at the studio. At 7pm on the dot, this tall sinewy woman strode into the room, closed the door firmly behind her, and took her place at the front of the class. Holding forth, she told us to arrive at the top of our mats, feet apart, standing tall. We scrambled clumsily to the top of our mats, consensual recruits of her private yoga army, standing at attention awaiting our next instruction. She was tough as nails and we were her captive audience for the next hour.
Deconstructing The Mountain Pose
As it turned out, the next few minutes were spent deconstructing the very simple act of just standing. The integrity of posture, alignment, breath, form, were all presented to us in this one posture that we had done daily without much thought. We were told it was called 'Tadasana' (Mountain Pose) or ' Samasthiti' (Unmoved, Equilibrium).. So turns out in yoga, just standing has a name in its own right. Starting from the feet, we were introduced to 'Pada- Bandha' whereby the toes are spread wide and inner arches actively lifted, through the hips and torso whereby the former is drawn in slightly as a response to the active engagement of the abdominals, an elongated spine, broad chest and lifted crown.
It's All About Breath and Alignment
Reflecting on this lesson many years later, I feel I haven't given this integral pose the due it deserves. With so many asana to get through in a practice session, Tadasana has often served as a means to an end; a segway-pose that gets us from one place to the next or a quick rest-stop to catch your breath.
Scary Teacher's lesson ( which turned out to not to be scary but wonderfully inspiring ), served to highlight a fundamental lesson in yoga asana practice. Despite the absence of external exertion, true yoga happens within. Similarly in Tadasana, true activity is unapparent to the naked eye. The substance of breath and pure alignment in this pose, makes this truly one of the greatest postures one can practice.
Mountain Pose To The People!
Nowadays, I find myself interspersing my vinyasa practice with the practice of Tadasana as an asana in its own right; deserving more than 1 breath I allow it 5 or sometimes even 10. At a recent workshop with the wonderful Bo Forbes, the latter utilized the practice of Tadasana between each vinyasa as a means of allowing the body to process and absorb the benefits of the continuous flow. As opposed to throwing oneself from asana to asana, re-engaging with Tadasana grounds the body, frees the breath and introduces a profound meditative element to one's practice. Furthermore it serves to awaken a more active awareness of physical alignment and awareness in the practice of other asana.
Taking Tadasana off the mat and into our daily lives, it is a wonder how often we take for granted the complex intricacies of this simple pose. Re-engaging with the dual action of grounding and lifting, Tadasana is the perfect way of welcoming space and reconnecting with the sensation of our true union with stillness.