The most foundational pose in yoga is known as Mountain Pose, or Tadasana. It is at the center of every yoga pose. The head is drawn back so the ears are in line with the shoulders, the spine is lengthened, the shoulders are pressed down and back, the core is engaged, and the tailbone is lengthened towards the floor. This line of energy is maintained regardless of how you bend and balance in any yoga posture.
How to get into Mountain Pose:
Stand with feet hip distance apart. Notice if your are leaning forward onto your toes or backward onto your heels. Lift your toes and press into the ball joint of your big toes, the ball joint of your pinky toes, and the two points on the bottom of your heels (this is also known as pressing into all four corners of your feet), and then gently place your toes back down on your mat.
Bring awareness to the muscle engagement in your legs. Rotate your legs inward to make space for your tailbone. Notice if your lower back is arched up or tucked under (maybe arch and tuck your sacrum to feel the extremes, and then find the middle). Bring your sacrum to neutral so that the tailbone is lengthened towards the floor.
Engage your core—hug your ribs together, and pull your belly button towards the spine. Open your chest by pressing your shoulders back and down, and then pull your chin back so that your ears are over your shoulders, your shoulders are over your hips, and your hips are over your ankles.
Take long, steady breaths.
Benefits of Mountain Pose:
There are so many, but to name a few…
Great for bringing awareness to breath
Assists with balance
Strengthens legs, glutes, and core
Helps with sciatica (common cause of lower back pain from irritation of sciatic nerve)
Common mistakes of Mountain Pose:
Shoulders are collapsed inward with a rounded upper back rather than shoulders pressed down and back with an open chest
The tailbone is arched or tucked rather than lengthened towards the ground
Ribs are flared open rather than hugging them in and engaging the core
Weight is either all in the toes or heels rather than pressing into all four points of the foot
Legs are not engaged instead of spiraling the thighs inward toward the back of the room
Tips for Mountain Pose:
Stand against a wall—pull your chin backward so that your ears are above your shoulders, press your shoulders back and down so you can feel your upper back against the wall, engage your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine, and then feel your glutes and your heels against the wall.
Hug your shoulder blades toward one another to open up your chest.
Lift your toes up from the ground to ensure you are pressed firmly into the ball joint of your big toe, the ball joint of your pinky toe, and the two back points of the heels of your feet.
Place a block (or maybe a book or small pillow) between your legs above your knees, and then roll your thighs inward so that the block moves backward. This will teach you what it feels like to have an inward rotation with your legs.
Mountain Pose is frequently disregarded as easy, but when it is done correctly and when you are focused on alignment and muscle engagement, this pose is much more difficult than one might think! And it is essential to know and feel the alignment of this pose as you continue to learn and practice yoga.
I challenge you to practice Mountain Pose and really focus on what it feels like in your body. Then do your favorite yoga pose, and feel how the alignment you learned in Mountain Pose manifests itself in the pose of your choosing.
Feeling the line of energy from Mountain Pose in other yoga postures will change your practice. By protecting your alignment, you are able to hold the poses correctly without compromising your primary line of energy. If you do not pay attention to proper alignment, not only will you be compromising your primary line of energy, but you will also be compromising intended benefits of the poses as well as increasing your chance of injury.
In the same way we walk through life building structures on faulty foundations, we all walk into yoga with patterns in our bodies. For example, a lot of us stand with one hip out and all of our weight directed onto one foot, or we sit with our shoulders hunched over. Because our bodies are accustomed to improper alignment, we must be attentive to what the proper alignment in Mountain Pose feels like and then apply this as we build into other yoga postures.
I know you are probably more interested in explanations of “more exciting” poses, but—trust me—you don’t want to go there without starting here. This is the foundation. And it is the perfect pose to bring awareness to your breath! Breath is at the heart of yoga, and I’ve found that breathing—the very thing you already do day-in and day-out—is one of the hardest parts of a yoga practice, so that is where we are headed next.
Keep tuning in to learn about the importance of breath!