Posture breakdown – tadasana (mountain pose)

Tadasana teaches us how to stand properly, and therefore also how to breathe properly, and is arguably one of the most important postures in yoga. It teaches us body-awareness, improves strength and balance and allows us to explore energy flow through the body. It is also a wonderful opportunity to connect with your breath and the earth beneath you and to find stillness in the moment. Imagine yourself as a mountain rooted to the ground through ancient bedrock – solid and peaceful.

How to do it:
The grounding benefits of this posture start with the feet, so take time to establish your feet foundation. Stand with your feet either together (there can be a small gap between the heels) or slightly apart and parallel (traditionally feet are together in ashtanga and vinyasa flow, but this isn’t essential). Come up onto your toes, really spread them as wide as possible, then sink slowly back onto the heels. Actively press downwards into the mat through your feet, imagining that the four corners of each foot are pressing down equally. You can explore this by rocking forward towards the toes then back towards the heels then trying to find that ‘sweet spot’ in the centre where you feel balanced equally across the whole feet. Spread the toes and open the soles fully to the mat to feel fully grounded and rooted through the feet.

Take a moment to find a neutral pelvis position. Most of us have a tendency to either stick the pelvis forward when standing, which causes a rounding and weakening in the upper back and tightening across the chest, or to stick the bum out, which causes compression in the lower spine and loses any engagement of the abdominals. Imagine your pelvic bowl is holding water, and you don’t want to spill the water out of the front or back of the bowl. Experiment with tilting the pelvis backwards and forwards until, again, you feel that sweet spot of balance, where the sit-bones (two bony projections that descend from the base of the pelvis) are pointing directly downwards into the earth.

As you continue to press down through the feet, feel the rebound of energy that travels up through the body. Feel this rebounding energy flow up through the spine, finding upward extension all the way up the neck and out the top of the head. Bring your shoulders to your ears and roll them back and down, drawing the shoulder blades together down the spine. This opens the chest and allows the rib cage to expand so you can breathe fully. Your ear, shoulder, hip and ankle should be in line, if you were looking at yourself side on. Most of us have tight pectoral and chest muscles that draw the shoulders too far forward, so it can feel wrong when you’re in the aligned position. But keep working with it, and over time those muscles will stretch and the shoulders will draw back more easily.

Tadasana is a quietly active pose with all parts of the body working together to find strength and balance. Draw up on the kneecaps to engage the fronts of the thighs and reach into the fingertips to engage the arms. So you’re now pushing down through the feet and simultaneously growing upwards through the body, with pelvis and shoulders in alignment and arms and legs engaged.

Now take the awareness to the breath. Breathe through the nose and lengthen the inhales and exhales as much as you can without over-exerting.

Next take the awareness to the abdominal area. Gently draw the navel back towards the spine and upwards slightly to engage the deep transverse abdominals (uddiyana bandha) and lift up on pelvic floor muscles to engage moola bandha (more on moola bandha in the anatomy article). If you’re engaging the bandhas correctly, the lower belly won’t move much during breathing and instead the breath is naturally directed into the upper chest, which helps to open the chest and rib-cage further by stretching the intercostal muscles between the ribs. Breathe into the chest, focusing on the sensations of movement in the rib-cage as you breathe in and out. Make sure you don’t allow the shoulders to creep up to the ears as this happens; keep them rolling back and downwards.

Now, whilst keeping the alignment and engagement through the body, try and find some peace and rest in the pose. Go inward, focus on your inhales and exhales and follow their journey through the body, feeling an upward extension on the inhales and a sinking grounding on the exhales. Soften your face. Really feel the sensation of the mat or floor beneath your feet. Connect with the earth beneath you. Know you’re fully supported and imagine you’re absorbing some of the vast reserves of energy stored at the earth’s core.

There are no real contra-indications for this pose, unless you have very low blood pressure, in which case standing up for a prolonged period might not be suitable for you.

Great for building body-awareness and developing foundation alignment principles.
Allows a focus on developing full breathing, opening the chest and rib-cage fully.
If done with full integrity, builds strength in the legs, arms and core.
Calming, grounding, balancing and peaceful.

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