Dan Peppiatt takes us through Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - the foundation for a strong yoga practice.
It always puzzles me that people are so concerned with learning to balance on their arms and hands in yoga classes, when most cannot even stand on their own two feet particularly well.
So Tadasana is a great place to start working with our most fundamental posture of all; master this single pose and every other asana is suddenly truly open to you.
There is no right or wrong way to 'do' Tadasana or any posture come to that, as long as your body doesn't suffer from the experience and you are connected mindfully to your practice. Tadasana can be a very solid and firm pose like its mountain namesake, or it can be soft and gentle rather more like a hill. It is likely that we will want to have elements of both strength and softness, rigidity and suppleness, like a mountain with a soft, snow-laden peak and differing faces.
- I always begin with the feet and the mind. After all, the feet are our point of contact with the ground - our foundation. The mind controls the winds that buffet and swirl around the mountain. If the mind is not calm and the feet are not grounded, we have no hope of establishing a stable and easeful posture as Patanjali would have recommended.
- Explore the effects of creating and releasing tension in various parts of your body. Experiment with tensing the lower leg muscles, upper legs, thighs and knees, the buttocks, groin, pelvic floor and abdominals. Explore various combinations of tension. Do the same with the upper body.
- Ask yourself, does this create more stability? A greater sensation of lightness? Does it feel more supportive to my spine? Do I feel solid and supple or rigid and brittle?
- Only you can understand your Tadasana. And you can only understand it by spending time with it. Alone.
I love working with Tadasana with my eyes closed. That way I can really feel the pose rather than thinking it. If you are comfortable working with the eyes closed and it is safe to do so, then try it this way. Trust me, it will open up entirely new dimensions of the posture that you never understood before.
So begin with the breath. Allow the breath to settle and find its own stable pattern.
When you feel mentally calm, however long that takes, move your attention around the body. Where are you holding tension today? Don't expect it to be the same as yesterday or two hours ago. Yoga is about working with the person that you are now, not a memory of what you think or thought you were.
Take awareness to your feet. Are they parallel and facing forwards or turned outwards (or more rarely inwards)? If they aren't aligned straight ahead then (for the majority of bodies) that twisting will be carried up through the entire leg to the hip joint and pelvis. We will be creating unbalanced areas of tightness as well as areas lacking engagement. From this start point, we can't ever hope to grow upwards with stability. So sort those feet out!
Spread your toes, lift them up. Notice the arches of the feet becoming more pronounced as you pull the tendons that pass through the soles tighter? Those arches are the key to the strength, spring and shock absorbing properties of your feet. Collapse them at your peril!
Now place the toes back down whilst keeping them spread.
Engage through the points of contact with the floor, most notably the balls of your feet and your heel (sometimes defined as having an inner and outer edge). Don't forget to mindfully press into the ball of the big toe, we often tend to subconsciously roll onto the outside edge of the foot. Not engaging through the inside, medial edge of the foot has far-reaching implications for everything from balance to core muscle and pelvic stability.
Find out more about Dan Peppiatt's teacher training immersion and workshops at yogalikewater.com