Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Standing Tall in Mountain Pose

One of my last projects to complete in order to receive my 200 hour yoga teacher training certification is to write a 6 week beginning yoga student series.  Mountain Pose is a foundational yoga pose.  It should be taught (and learned) before any other pose.  It is a pose that is important enough, I felt it warranted a blog post dedicated to only it.

Mountain Pose, known in Sankskrit as Tadasana, is a key pose in all yoga styles.  It is the pose we seek in every other pose.  Proper alignment is crucial and begins at the base of the mountain, where our feet meet the earth.  Choose your base wisely.  Some people prefer their feet together.  Some people prefer their feet apart.  A wider stance will produce a more stable foundation, so if balance is a concern, feet hip distance apart is a good guideline. 

Standing at the top of your mat, lift your toes up and place them all back down one by one so the pads of your toes touch the ground beneath them.  Shift around on your feet until you feel your weight evenly distributed between your big toe mound, your little toe mound, and the heel of your foot.  Once your feet are firmly planted, you can begin to move up the mountain.

  • Engage your quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thigh.  You should feel a slight lift in your knee caps.
  • Check that your pelvis is in a neutral position.  If you have a tendency to stick your tailbone out, scoop it slightly being careful not to over-scoop or hypo-extend.
  • Engage your core muscles.
  • Lengthen up through your spine.
  • Relax your shoulders and roll them down your back.
  • Chin should be in a neutral position, parallel to the floor.
  • Turn your palms to face front.
  • Breathe.

Can you see Tadasana in this Downward Dog?
As you continue to practice yoga, you’ll start to realize, Tadasana is in every pose…the neutral pelvis, the engaged core muscles, the straightened spine, reaching out through the crown of your head and out through the heels of your feet—in plank, in downward facing dog, in forward fold.  Build a strong mountain from the beginning and a strong asana practice will follow.

During a Yin Yoga teacher training seminar, Joe Barnett, a senior student of Paul Grilley, stated:  “As we grow older, we are shrinking and drying up.”  In fact, according to the article, Do people shrink as they age? written by University of Arkansas for Medical Services, we can start to lose inches as early as 30 years old.

Don't over-scoop putting your pelvis into posterior tilt.
Well into my “over the hill” years, I’m certain this statement is true for a large majority of the population, but I can attest that I am actually ½” taller than I was before I began practicing yoga.  Not because there’s magic or voodoo in my yoga practice, but because of Tadasana.  I have learned to stand up straight.  I no longer stand with my pelvis anteriorly tilted; I no longer stand with my shoulders slumped forward; and I no longer stand with my gaze toward the floor.  I stand with my spine straight, pelvis in neutral, shoulders back, and head high.  I’ve elongated my spine and created space between my vertebrae.

So while most people my age are being overcome by the gravitational pull of the earth, I’m finding new height!  Just one more positive thing to add to the list of the many ways yoga has improved my overall quality of  life.