Align: Tadasana

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Tadasana, or mountain pose, is traditionally considered the foundation of all yoga poses.  The root of the pose, tat, means ¨the Eternal, which is unnamable and unmovable.¨ The posture is often referred to as samasthiti, which means to stand in balanced stillness.  This pose exemplifies neutral, optimal alignment of the body, and it is used as a centering device throughout practice, as well as to assess changes in breath, wavering thoughts and postural habits when transitioning between different poses.  

Tadasana is the essence of asana, described by Patanjali as a steady and comfortable position,¨ and principles of this pose are universally applied to every yoga posture.

Functions of the Pose

Assess and balance postural alignment

Tadasana is a perfect position for the student and teacher to assess patterns of postural compensation, such as asymmetries, rotations or pronounced spinal curvatures.  In this position, students can practice finding balance and symmetry within their bodies.

Improve steadiness of mind

This pose is frequently used as a starting or resting point to keep the practitioner focused and connected to the full experience of yoga practice.

Extension and expansion

With practice, a student will gain the strength and kinesiological awareness to extend the length of the entire body, creating space for more breath.

Finding the Pose

  1. Stand with feet parallel (meaning that, for most people, the second toes of each foot point forward). Spread your toes wide, lifting through the inner arch and grounding through the inner and outer ball of the foot and the heel.
  2. Hands can either rest at your sides (perhaps with palms facing forward), or they can be in anjali mudra, with palms together in front of the heart.
  3. Imagine extending your body upward as you stack knees, hips, shoulders and ears over your ankles. Endeavor to create even extension between the side, front and back lines of the body, so that the body as a whole is drawing upward.
  4. Notice areas of the body which seem to resist extension, especially areas of the spine which appear to have excessive curvature or discomfort.
  5. Allow the chest to rise and expand with each breath and the upper arms to gently roll outward.
  6. Let your gaze be steady, yet soft, with your focal point internal or external.

Tips & Modifications

Styles of yoga may differ in positioning of the feet in tadasana.  In Iyengar yoga, the inner edge of both feet touch, from toes to heels.  In Ashtanga yoga, toes touch and heels are slightly separated.  In general, keeping the feet directly under the hips so that the legs extend directly downward is most stable and least stressful for most body types.  Some students may prefer the feet slightly wider than the hips for added stability (and for mobility when transitioning to a standing forward bend).

Remember that every body will have a different optimal alignment.  There is no ¨perfect posture¨ which we are striving to attain.  By applying principles of alignment, the student and teacher can uncover postural patterns and begin to train the body to work more efficiently.  But first, the student must learn to observe with kindness, honesty and curiosity, what he finds.

For students who must remain seated, tadasana can be practiced as sukhasana (or any other seated position) in a chair. Feet can rest on the floor, and the student focuses on strengthening and lengthening, especially from the hips up.

Tadasana provides an excellent opportunity to teach core awareness and support, and how having support from the core allows the bones to align and outer muscles of the body to be more relaxed and comfortable.

Muscle Actions

  • The postural muscles maintain alignment of the spine (these include the deep neck muscles, spinal extensors and flexors, abdominal muscles, pelvic floor and psoas major) and legs (hamstrings, adductor magnus, gluteus maximus).
  • The serratus anterior upwardly rotates the scapula, and the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder joint.

Benefits

  • Standing in a neutral, easy position reveals postural compensation patterns (to the student and teacher), and provides an opportunity to learn how to bring more balance to the body.
  • Strengthens the "core," from the inner ankles, all the way up to the neck (especially when used with the bhandas).

Precautions

  • Students who can safely stand can also safely practice tadasana.

Sequencing Tips

It can be useful to teach tadasana near the beginning of a class, to introduce the concept of neutrality in the spine, as well as to give the students an opportunity to see where they may naturally compensate in their posture and what movements or engagement helps to balance those compensations so that they can explore them in other postures.

Resting in tadasana throughout practice is a wonderful way to center and be aware of the effects of the practice.

Additional Resources

Yoga: The Iyengar Way
By Silva Mehta, Mira Mehta, Shyam Mehta