Tadasana (mountain pose) is one of the most underrated yoga poses. Often dismissed as too “basic” or “simple,” many people rush right through it or omit it from their practice all together.
Remember, simple and easy are not the same thing! This pose is the foundation for all standing poses. It is also a great pose for improving posture, health and well being off the mat.
Let’s look at the appropriate alignment for each of the major parts of our body in Tadasana.
Most people will be best suited by standing with the feet hip-width apart.
Many of us, myself included, habitually stand with the feet in a “V” shape, as pictured here.
Instead, imagine a line down the middle of each foot. The imaginary line down the middle of the left foot should be parallel to its counterpart on the right. Most people need to move the heels out slightly to accomplish this.
Many people report feeling like their feet are turned in when they move the heels out This feeling is likely the result of regularly standing with the feet turned out, and not necessarily a trustworthy indication of neutral. Let that imaginary line down the middle of each foot be your guide.
Knees & Thighs
After you’ve aligned your feet, it is important to check in with your knees and thighs. Try bending the knees. If they bend inward toward each other, you’ll need to slightly externally rotate your thighs.
Then, gently shift the top of the femurs back. This brings the hips directly above the knees, which are directly above the ankles.
Here is a video for all my visual learners:
Now, bring your awareness to the lumbar spine. Take a look at this picture.
Notice how the lumbar spine curves in significantly toward the front body. Most westerners tuck the tailbone and artificially flatten this curve.
To restore a healthy lumbar curve, place one of your hands on your sacrum, with heel of the hand at the top and the fingers down near the tailbone. In neutral, the sacrum sits at an angle of about 30 degrees (it’s partially hidden in the above picture, but you can still get a feel for the angle). Release any tuck of the tailbone and let the top of the sacrum move toward the front body to restore that angle.
Lift the breast bone up and allow the shoulders to relax.
Finally, while it is subtle and largely unnoticeable, most people carry their head forward of neutral.
This misalignment places an incredible strain on the discs of the cervical spine, and can also lead to chronic headaches and muscular tension.
To correct this “forward head posture,” draw the head back. The base of the chin should be parallel to the floor. The center of the ear canal should be directly over the shoulders. And, the back of the neck should be long and gracefully arched.
In healthy alignment, notice how easy the breath moves in and out of the body while in Tadasana.
This pose can be practiced almost anywhere! This week, try coming back to Tadasana for 10 breaths between each of your standing poses. Or, practice it off the mat – in line at the grocery store, in the office or the kitchen.
P.S. This post is part of a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for additional posts in this series.
Are you suprised the longest post in our Back to Basics series is for Tadasana? Who knew standing still could be such hard work? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.