There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. Nelson Mandela
Here is where you may be thinking…”This is one pose I know – I can do this one! All I need to do is stand at the front of my mat, right?”
Well, yes…and no. Tadasana or Mountain pose comes from the ever-repeated “call to action” pose in Ashtanga yoga – Samastitihi (SA-MAS-TI-TI-HI) translated as “equal standing”. There is a reason I am only showing my feet in the image above (and it is not because my husband thinks they are so pretty or because I love the purple polish on my toes). It is because, the feet are all that matters in this pose. If you standing equally on the four corners of each foot (the first and fifth metatarsal heads or the “balls” of your feet as well as the inside and outside of the calcaneus, or heel bone, at the base of the arch) – you’ve got it! All you need to do is stand and enjoy the feeling of being grounded and routed downward while feeling an intense freedom in the ribs, chest and shoulders. You are ready for practice. But, if you are not “equal”, no other correction you make in your hips, knees, spine or shoulders will get you there. You can tuck your pelvis, tighten your quads, drop your shoulders down your back and straighten your spine but…nope, not quite. It all starts at your feet.
Next time you are just standing, talking to a friend, cooking at the stove, waiting for the bus or inline at the store – bring awareness to how you are standing. If you are like most people, you have most of your weight on one leg while the other leg rotates outward or you may be locking back one knee. Close your eyes. What do you feel? Notice your breath and your mood. Now bring your big toes together or very close, lift up your heels and gently pull them apart so that you have created a triangle between your feet with the base at your heels. If you can do this without looking down – it works better. Otherwise get there in any graceful manner. Now, lift your toes to awaken your arches and even your pelvic floor (surprise!) and make sure your knees are not locked straight or hyper-extended. Bring your concentration to the four corners of each foot. Close your eyes.
How do you feel?
Do you feel like a mountain?
Can anyone come up behind you and MOVE you?
You have now moved your practice off the mat and into your life. How else can you allow yourself to feel grounded and ready for action?
If both of your legs are turned outward when you normally stand, try placing a block or pillow between the thighs just above the knee. It should be sticking out the rear so that you feel you could rotate your thighs inward and literally shoot it out behind you.
If you have a tendency to grip with your toes, try placing your toes up a wall and resting on the balls of your feet.
If you have the tendency to lock or hyper-extend your knees, stand with your back to a wall and place a rolled blanket or mat or even tennis balls behind the knees so that when you strengthen your legs you are pushing backwards without being able to fully extend the knees.
Stroke or Severe Balance loss: stand with your back to a wall or your fingers lightly resting on a chair for support.