The body extends upwards, with the base as firm as a rock; the mind is steady and attentive. Tadasana teaches balance, centering and evenness and direction of extensions. These principles apply to all the postures.
Tadasana is perhaps the most basic yoga pose. All yoga poses are called asana and the word tada translates from Sanskrit to mountain, thus this is the 'mountain posture'. As it is a very simple and restful pose it is usually one of the very first that must be mastered by a new student. It is the base for all the other asanas, particularly the standing ones.
The pose is often done at the beginning of a yoga routine, either as the first one, or perhaps after some simple sitting poses such as virasana or sukhasana. It can also be practised in between more strenuous poses to regain an even control of the breath and refocus and re-center the body. For the same reasons, it can also be done before entering a meditation period. Many people also find it beneficial to practise first thing in the morning after getting out of bed to align and refresh the body before the day.
Although the pose looks simple, and indeed is the most simple of the asanas, it still takes much practise and concentration to master all the different areas of the body and combine them into a strong yet relaxed posture. Placing the body correctly from the beginning is of utmost importance as this will help the pose to be balanced for its entirety.
The ideal when practising tadasana is that the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears are exactly in a straight, vertical line. At first, this may take a surprising amount of concentration and effort. In order for your body to be lined up this way, its base, that is your feet, must be lined up. Think about the way people stand most of the time, they pretty much always lean one way or the other. Resting most of their weight on one leg, perhaps switching between the two, or standing with one leg placed more forward that the other. Even when sitting ones feet are hardly ever planted flat and together on the floor.
That is why this pose is so important and teaches many of the fundamental disciplines needed to carry out other standing poses successfully. Balance, alignment, concentration and awareness of the body are all focused on whilst practising tadasana. When one first begins to practise it is very important to take care when doing each of the following steps so that the end result is good. As one becomes more experienced the body will more naturally align its self, and many of the steps will become less conscious.
If this all sounds a bit confusing just reading through it – and it can be – just stand up and try do it step by step, it makes a lot more sense that way, as you can feel what your body naturally does and what you should be trying to achieve.
- - - Feet- - -
Take a deep breath in, and on the exhale stand as straight up as you can, facing forward. Whilst placing yourself in the posture always remember to breathe deeply and evenly. Put your feet together with the heels and toes inline and the big toes and centres of the inner ankle bones touching. To gain correct balance and make a firm base first lift up your toes and the soles of you feet, gently rocking back onto your heels. Extend the toes and arches as forward as you can, then let your feet come back to the floor. Now rise up slightly onto your toes and stretch your heels and the back of the arches backwards, then again let your feet come down to the floor. Your feet should now be flat and stable, remember to keep stretching the toes forward, but try not to grip the floor or mat with them. Lastly make sure that your weight is evenly placed on the inner and outer edges of your feet, and between your heels and soles.
- - - Legs- - -
Your legs should be as straight and extended as possible. Try and stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles up as much as possible. Try to join the inner knees and then lock your knees by drawing the kneecaps into the joints. As this happens you should also (and it will often happen involuntarily) tighten the muscles of your thighs and extend them upwards.
- - - Lower Trunk- - -
Try to create space between the thighs and trunk at the front by lifting the hips up, but making sure not to protrude them forwards. Lengthen the spine and trunk as much as is possible without straining. Move the lower abdomen up and back, but without tensing the muscles. Lastly, tighten the buttock muscles and draw them up while once again making space in the lower trunk by extending the spine and waist upward.
- - - Upper Trunk- - -
On the inhale, lift the diaphragm and ribs and open them as outwards as you can. Try to lift your collar bones and open your chest by drawing the front of your ribs away from the sternum. Press your shoulder blades into your back and bring them downwards without collapsing the back ribs – you are trying to create as much space as possible in the front of your chest without compromising the line of your back. Relax your shoulders and keep them down, moving them horizontally away from the neck.
- - - Arms- - -
Turn the upper arms outwards and stretch the arms down. You can then let them relax and hang naturally, check to see that they are even and inline with each other, if not, move them so that they are and so that they are not resting against your body. As you practise you will see that they begin to hang more inline on their own.
- - - Neck- - -
Stretch your neck upwards, but be very careful not to strain it, strength in the neck comes from practising other asanas. Make sure your back is not humped, as this makes the neck shorter. Try to extend the back of the neck from below the shoulder blades and the front from the sternum.
- - - Head- - -
Keep your head straight, making sure that the chin is level and the ears vertical. If your head is aligned properly it should feel light and supple. Relax your facial muscles and look ahead. You may keep your eyes open or close them. Some people find it very hard to balance with their eyes closed, in this case they may be kept open and should focus on one spot straight ahead. If they are closed, this pose can be useful in preparing for meditation.
- - - Focus- - -
Once the body is correctly lined up and placed in this position, it is very important to focus on keeping it this way. Make sure that you are not leaning more weight onto one foot and that your arms are still hanging in line. Focus on taking long, deep breathes. Checking your alignment will make you aware of adjusting your body in a sensitive and subtle way. Your left and right and front and back should be exactly in line and parallel, even if one finger is bent and the other is not, this alignment is lost. Become aware of the line that runs between your legs, through the front and back of the body and to the crown of your head. This line should be vertical and once achieved you should take note of the balance and stability your body has in this position.
Try and make the mind still, do not let it wander, instead making it focus on the body, thus making it aware of the equilibrium gained. The position is normally held for about a minute, but at first you may wish to only stay in it for shorter amounts of time, and with practice you may extend it to any length you feel comfortable with. It is an excellent pose to start off with and once mastered will make all other poses more balanced and strong.
Settling into the posture brings repose. It follows precise placement of the limbs, correct extension and balance. There is peace and unity within. The mind fills every particle of the body, bringing harmony. This is Yoga.
Many hours of yoga
The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira & Shyam Metha