There are how-to instructions written on every yoga pose conceivable, whether in books, on the Internet, or in magazines. On social media, yogis of all body types and capabilities are making a name for themselves by offering yoga instruction in bite size segments with pictorial or video demonstration. Because information on nearly every pose in existence can be found online, I ask myself, what unique insight can I offer my readers that will positively benefit their practice? In submission, I humbly offer you the practice of Tadasana, the most basic, fundamental, and primary yoga pose. Tadasana is the one pose that I come back to everyday, every practice, and in every class I teach. While there are many poses that seem more dynamic, intense, and challenging, it is Tadasana that offers the most engagement and opportunity for introspection.
My daily practice begins with classical Surya Namaskar, which is repetitive cycle of twelve poses that both begins and ends in Tadasana. Because the engagement of Tadasana sets the foundational tone of the practice, its importance cannot be overstated. The form and focus of Tadasana is energetically mirrored within the varying poses of Surya Namaskar, from Downward Facing Dog to Plank Pose, and parallels positions like Hasta Tadasana, Extended Mountain Pose, and Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose. Beyond Surya Namaskar, Tadasana creates the base for all standing poses, particularly ones involving balance, like Vrikshasana, Tree Pose, and Svarga Dvijasana, Bird of Paradise Pose. Further, Tadasana’s stable form gives rise to backbends such as Ustrasana, Camel Pose, and Shalabhasana, Locust Pose. Seated, the energy of Tadasana informs Dandasana, Staff Pose, Paschimotonasana, Seated Forward Fold, Purvottanasana, East Pose, and inversions such as Sarvangasana, Shoulder Stand, and Shirshasana, Headstand.
Though there are multitudes of ways to set up Mountain Pose, such as standing with the feet hip’s distance apart with the palms facing forward, or with the hands together in Namaste’, my preferred way to align Mountain Pose is austere: feet together, big toes touching, arms at the side, palms facing inward. To begin, stand at the front of the mat and bring big toes together until they are firmly touching. To many, this first point of connection seems minor. However, pressing the big toes together is akin to connecting two live electrical wires—when they touch, energy flows. With the big toes pressing together, spread the remaining toes apart, and ground them back down to the floor. Making slight movements, balance the body’s weight evenly between the toes to the heels, and from the inside arches to the outside edges of the feet. Stand with balanced weight on both the right and left foot, weight distributed squarely across the front, back, inside, and outside of each.
Once the feet are in place, engage Tadasana by moving upwards in the body. Activate the calf muscles, straighten the knee joints, and contract the quadriceps firmly. Tighten the hamstring muscles, squeeze the inner thighs together, tuck the tailbone inwards, and engage the gluts. Lift the sternum upwards, roll the shoulders back and down, and straighten the elbows. With the palms facing the thighs, firmly reach the fingertips downwards as if they could touch the floor. Squeeze the armpits closed, and make the arms rigid, tight, and tense. Deeply engage the abdominal muscles, and activate the erector muscles of the spine. Draw the shoulder blades together and down towards the mid-back, and activate the muscles across the chest. Engage the whole body from the feet to the head.
Now, close your eyes. Keeping the whole body engaged, breathe. Take full ujjayi breaths and scan the body once more, beginning at the big toes, and all the way up again, engaging the whole body with awareness and breath. Keeping the body engaged, relax the neck, jaw, face, brow, and scalp. Sense the duality of the engaged, firm, tight, tense, activated body, paired with breath awareness and a purposeful softening of the face. The practice of Tadasana provides an introspective experience aligned with the true purpose of yoga. Physically, the yogi is activated and engaged in the manifest world. Internally, the yogi is calm, focused, and relaxed. In this way, Tadasana embodies the essence of a yogi.
Another term used for Tadasana is Samasthiti, a conjunction of two Sanskrit words: sama, meaning unmovable, stable, and sthiti, meaning standing still, steady. Therefore, Tadasana is a pose wherein the body is firm and unyielding, steadfast as a mountain. This is the energetic attitude of yogic lifestyle, one that is unwavering in practice, focus, and inner stillness. On a physical level, the entire pantheon of yoga asana is incepted from Tadasana. Aided with awareness and breath, Tadasana not only translates into all the shapes and forms made on the mat, but also into day-to-day living in terms of posture, gait, and body awareness. This lifestyle application goes further in terms of consistency, motivation, ambition, will power, and personal fulfillment. Both on the mat and off, Tadasana deepens self-awareness, highlights the capability of the body, fine tunes mental concentration, and promotes purposeful relaxation. In this way, the daily practice of Tadasana sets the foundation for spiritual awareness within a material world.