HOW TO PRACTICE Mountain Pose IN YOGA (Tadasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose (Sanskrit name: Tadasana) is the blueprint yoga pose for all standing asanas. Indeed, it can be said that this deceptively simple yoga posture embodies optimal body alignment and contains the mechanics needed for most poses.
Mountain Pose is not as flashy as other yoga poses, but the relative simplicity of this pose does not mean it’s easy to master. Tadasana affords a great opportunity to learn about the unique alignment characteristics of your own body and any postural habits (samskaras) you may bring to your yoga practice.
The simplicity of the asana, combined with the nuances of execution, make Mountain Pose an ideal starting point for beginning yoga students. It’s also a great touchstone posture to remind more experienced yoga practitioners about the importance of working from a place of core stability and optimal alignment.
Benefits of Mountain Pose
When done correctly, Mountain Pose engages every muscle in your body, challenges your mind, and puts you in touch with your body physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Exploring Mountain Pose can help identify imbalances in weight bearing, dysfunctional postural habits, and other misalignment patterns in the body, such as chronic muscle holding in the upper back and shoulders. While standing in Tadasana, you may notice your thighs, knees, and ankles starting to work, along with your abdomen and buttocks. This standing yoga pose offers the experience of rooting through the earth while rising toward the sky at the same time.
One of the beautiful things about practicing correct alignment in Mountain Pose is that the neutrality of the spine in relation to the limbs presents little risk to joints. When your structure is properly aligned, you can practice Mountain Pose with very little muscular effort. This means you can stay for several minutes and focus on your breathing, in turn steadying the mind and attention. You may also experience an increase in energy and enthusiasm as you stand tall and breathe.
Master Tadasana and you’ve got a good foundation for all the other yoga poses.
Basic Mountain Pose
- The traditional instruction is to start with the big toes touching and the heels a few inches apart. However, for many women who have wider hips by design or people who tend toward knock-knees, the feet should simply be placed hips-width apart. Experiment with the distance between your feet. In what foot position does your balance feel most stable? In what foot position does the body feel lighter? Can you find a balance?
- Distribute your weight equally on both feet. Point your toes toward the front of the room as best as you can.
- Lift your toes off the floor to lift the inner arches of your feet. Keeping that lift, spread your toes and place them back onto the floor, maintaining even weight distribution on your feet.
- Root down through all four corners of your feet. Press down with the inner and outer balls of your feet (big and pinky toes) and the inner and outer edges of your heels.
- Move the outer ankles inward, without collapsing the inner arches, and notice the engagement in your legs.
- Maintaining this foot position, imagine the inner seam of your pants drawing your inner thighs back to broaden your back. Notice how this action creates an arch in your lower back.
- Marry the action in your thighs with a lengthening of your tailbone. This is an imaginary action–the pelvis does not move and does not tuck under. In order for your spine to be in a neutral position, the heads of your thigh bones should draw back toward the backs of your thighs, with the sacrum in approximately a 30-degree angle. This will look different for different people because there are variations in the shape of the sacrum. (Some people’s sacrums have a pronounced convex curve, while others’ sacrums are straight.) Keep your pelvis in neutral with space in the lower back, legs engaged, inner thighs rolling back, pelvis lengthening toward the tailbone.
- Stand tall from your core through your sternum and the top of your head. Face your palms forward as you align your arms with your side body. This will help spread your collar bones in front.
- Notice where you feel your weight: Is it shifting toward your toes or toward your heels? Are you swaying from side to side?
- Try to find an even distribution of your weight through both feet. This kind of awareness will come in handy in more difficult standing poses that require even greater balance and strength.
- Check in with your breathing. Are you still breathing deeply and fully, or are you holding in parts of the body, limiting the breath? Can you keep a sense of relaxation and ease in the body, even as all the muscular engagement continues?
Developing Greater Body Awareness in Tadasana
Although the shape of Mountain Pose may be uncomplicated, it’s a foundational pose for all of the standing yoga postures that requires a great deal of body-awareness. Asking yourself these questions while in the asana is an excellent personal exploration:
- Are your feet turning in or out? While your hip configuration may prevent your feet from being perfectly parallel, align them so they are facing front.
- Are your knees rotating in or out? Press your outer ankles in to create greater alignment in your lower legs.
- Is your pelvis tilting forward or back? Explore finding pelvic neutral by tilting your pelvis forward and back to find the sweet spot in the middle. You can test by palpating the soft tissue in the hip creases. If the tissue is hard and taut, draw the heads of your thigh bones back until the soft tissue feels springy.
- Are your legs engaged? If not, which cues from above can you use to reengage your legs?
- Are your shoulder blades pressing into your back? Is your sternum lifted or collapsing?
- Is your torso balanced over your hips? If not, how can you lengthen through your trunk to align your torso with the plumbline of your body?
It is important to understand all of these actions in Tadasana, as you will need to consider them again when you are working on more complicated standing yoga poses. The more you practice Mountain Pose correctly, the easier it will be to call upon the alignment you develop here in more challenging yoga poses. Indeed, if you practice Mountain Pose regularly, over time you will find that Tadasana can be transformative to your posture and how you carry yourself throughout the day.