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Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

There’s a wonderful visual harmony and energy to a room full of people doing Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the classic foundational standing pose of yoga, but then, the same can be said of a parade ground of soldiers standing at attention. Both project an image of power and vitality, of conformity amongst a group, but yoga is supposed to be an individual practice and a reflective practice, not a group performance.

There is a core philosophical difference between a modern, somatic practice of yoga and the classical form. In the classical form, you do the poses, forcing the body into a desired conformity and organization by application of will and strong effort. Repetition and application get you to the goal of awakening your dull and ignorant body to a higher level of consciousness.

The somatic form can be just as physically demanding if the practitioner so chooses, but the goal is the experience the practitioner has of their body and mind in the moment of the practice as they uncover and establish deeper connections within themselves that allow them to free up mobility and support to create greater coordination of function, experience, and expression. Whereas the classical form forces a particular organization of body and mind on the practitioner, the somatic form allows the practitioner to experience their body and mind as they are from within, creating order and meaning out of the experience.

Both approaches might sound very conceptual and esoteric the way I described them, but because each is a practice and not a theory, it’s easy to make them concrete. Here are comparative instructions for Tadasana you can try for each approach:

 

[one-half-first]
“Yank-and-Crank” Directions
• Lift the head up off the shoulders
• Move the thoracic spine in and up
• Lift and open the chest
• Roll the shoulders back
• Bring the shoulder blades into the back
• Reach the arms down the sides of the body
• Stack the ears and shoulders directly above the hips
• Move the thighs back to stack the hips directly above the ankles
• Lift the kneecaps and pull the thighs up
• Lift the toes and press down through the four corners of the feet to lift the arches
[/one-half-first]
[one-half]
Non-Doing Directions
• Allow your neck to be free so that your head can balance on the top of your spine
• Allow your back to widen into the space behind you
• Allow your chest to soften and widen outwards from your sternum
• Allow your shoulders to widen off your wide chest and back
• Allow your shoulder blades and collarbones to release outwards
• Allow your fingertips to release down towards the floor and your arms to hang free of your torso
• Allow your head to balance over your over your torso and your torso over your feet
• Allow your thighs to soften and release away from your torso
• Allow your kneecaps to soften and your knees to release forward away from your hips and ankles
• Allow your weight to release down through feet, back through your heels and forward through your toes
[/one-half]

 

The classical directions attempt to override the habits of the body with an application of force. The problem with this is you are layering two patterns on top of each other. Though you may be lifted and broad, underneath your exertions you are still pulling down.

In the non-doing approach, you are letting go of the habits that are pulling you out of your optimal organization and allowing that more balanced coordination to re-establish itself with awareness and adaptability to the way your body responds to each direction.

The Effortless Mountain

In the last post, we explored the fundamental coordination of the body that will allow you to stand more freely. Let’s apply that here to instructions for Tadasana.

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart. (Or with your legs together. This is a slightly less stable version of the pose that will challenge your coordination.)
  • Point your knees forward.
  • Release your arms down by your sides.
  • Allow your neck to soften and your head to balance on the top your spine as opposed to being held in place.
  • Allow your whole head to ease up towards the ceiling and your whole body to follow.
  • Allow your whole back to widen and expand into the space behind you.
  • Allow your legs to release into the floor.
  • Allow your kneecaps to soften forward and your thighs to release towards your knees.
  • Allow your shoulders to widen off your wide chest and back.
  • Allow your fingertips to lengthen towards the floor and your arms to follow.
  • Once again, allow your neck to be free and your head to balance on the top of your spine.

That’s quite a long laundry list of things to think about. Here’s the abbreviated version:

  • Allow your neck to be free so that your head can release away from the top of your spine.
  • Allow your whole torso to expand.
  • Allow your knees to release forward and away from each other and from your back.
  • Allow your shoulders to widen off your wide chest and back.
  • Allow your fingertips to lengthen.

And here is the instant version:

Allow your neck to be free and your head to ease away from the top of your spine.

Next time, we’ll look at a simple yoga practice that will help you find this coordination. Sign up for the Craft of Living newsletter so that you don’t miss out. You’ll also receive a free guide to the practice of Constructive Rest, a great way to begin or end your yoga practice.

Additional Reading

“Yank-and-Crank” Yoga No More!
Do Less, Not More
How to Stand with Poise and Ease, Part 1
How to Stand with Poise and Ease, Part 2
Fundamentals Yoga Practice: Growing Your Mountain