Building your body’s foundation from the ground up
By Ashton Graham
When I began practicing Iyengar yoga over 20 years ago, I would become frustrated by how much time the teacher would spend on tadasana, aka “standing mountain pose.” Her endless instructions on how to stand drove me crazy at the time. But face it, foundations are important in all aspects of life, from building a house to the way we stand.
The perfect start to achieve fitness is creating and cultivating good posture. It’s a domino effect: Your faulty posture causes insufficient use of your body and makes your entire system work harder, causing muscles to get strained and inflamed which leads to discomfort and pain. Chronic tension in your neck and shoulders or headaches could be a prime example of “forward head posture,” meaning that your head is not balanced properly on your cervical spine. Perhaps you have back pain because of your reducing your natural lumbar curve which may cause a bulging or herniated disc. A collapsed chest may lead to shortness of breath and digestive issues. So why not try a few simple steps to align your body?
While standing mountain pose may seem like a simple pose, it is not without its complexities. Becoming aware of each part of your body and the role that each play in stacking your bones and keeping your spine long is important.
Mentally, tadasana tests your focus, concentration and body awareness, and on a physical level it improves your posture, strengthens your thighs, knees, ankles, firms your abdomen, buttocks, opens your chest and improves your balance. Emotionally, it can even boost your
Standing barefoot with your feet either hip distance apart or together, feel your feet and calves root down to the ground. Are you evenly balanced on your feet? Is there more weight on the front of your foot or the back of your foot? Try lifting all 10 toes off the floor, then lightly place them back on the ground.
Engage your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs) lifting your kneecaps but not locking your knees. Your legs should be like pillars of steel rooting into the ground. Then think of your pelvis as a bowl. Is it tipped forward or backward? Think of taking your tailbone down and into your body. Draw your abdomen toward your spine, lifting the pit of your abdomen, create space between your ribs and your hips, and widen your collarbone to open your chest. Pull your shoulder blades back toward your spine and down your back. Are your shoulders stacked over your pelvis? Your chin is neither tucked nor lifted. Your ears should be directly over your shoulders, your gaze should be straight ahead. Your arms are hanging by your body with your palms facing your hips about six inches from your body. Your palms should feel that they are pressing toward your body with your fingers stretching toward the ground.
Once you’ve checked your alignment from the bottom of your feet to the crown of your head, take 10 breaths while you focus on standing tall. While everyone’s body is different, striving for proper alignment can make a world of difference for your entire body from your toes to your head. Standing mountain pose acts as the foundation, and the basic alignment carries you through many other postures in yoga.
You can practice tadasana anywhere, even while you are standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to buy stamps at the post office. Good posture isn’t just for beauty contestants; everyone needs to build a proper foundation. You’ll make an appointment to get the front end of your car aligned, but you’ll ignore your posture. Shouldn’t you love yourself more? Considering your own alignment helps you operate at your best.
Rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. Tadasana is a game-changing yoga pose. As a bonus, don’t be surprised if standing in tadasana boosts your mood. No appointment necessary.
Ashton Graham is an educator, book publisher, photographer, cowgirl and yoga teacher. ashtoncannon.com