Whether its majestic peaks or soft, green bluff, I find the greatest peace when I am standing in the ease and steadiness of a mountain. Mountains move us to awe, inspire our creativity, help us feel grounded and solid, and help us to remember the ancient and unshakable force of sustaining whatever comes. Likewise, when we practice the yoga pose Tadasana, we are reminded to embody these qualities of a mountain.
In a yoga practice, Tadasana, Mountain pose, is the most fundamental of all asanas. When we can master this deceptively simple form, we uncover a master blueprint for all other postures. Yet, for so many practitioners, the experience of Tadasana is elusive. The embodiment of the strength, ease, and stability that Tadasana calls us to experience is often a struggle to find.
Anatomy expert and yoga teacher, Ashton Szabo explained that the main reason we feel overworked and unstable in Tadasana is that many of us internally rotate the legs and lock the knees while in the pose, which causes the pelvis to rock forward and lose potential power in the legs and core.
To further stabilize your legs, pelvis, and core, Szabo said, “Gently ‘screw’ your feet and heels into the floor (without actually moving the feet).” You may have heard other teachers refer to this action as “ground down through the four corners of your feet.”
This action will help to fire the external rotators deep in your hips. It will also help keep your legs more active, which will allow more dynamic stability.
“Once you feel ‘screwed’ in, slightly bend your knees to see the knees tracking in the direction of the feet, and to feel the smooth and stable feeling within the legs and knees that is created by stabilizing the hips,” Szabo said.
When we approach Tadasana as a grounding and stabilizing experience rather than a purely muscular one, Szabo said, “We find that the shoulder blades are comfortably flat and down the back with the heads of the shoulders resting back into the shoulder socket. This allows the head to draw back and align itself more properly with the spine. With a slight engagement of the rhomboids and lower traps, the shoulder blades settle onto the back and broaden the front of the chest.”
While a detailed understanding of the pose is essential, I’ve found that over-engaging the pose can lead to moving farther away from the grounded steadiness that the mountain represents. We rotate this, engage that, tuck this and lift that, all the while moving away from the embodiment of the form. As a yoga teacher, I observe this. Multiple times in a class, I invite my students into Tadasana. Rather than finding a moment to land and be full, they pull away, express agitation or even boredom with the pose. They are itching to move on to something else and don’t want to waste their time just standing there.
I was the same way for years. Standing in Tadasana was a battle. How do I adjust, shift, and change in order to find this perfect standing stillness, this majesty that everyone speaks so eloquently about? Then one day after over 20 years of trying, I landed in Tadasana. When this happened, everything shifted. Once I trusted the ground beneath me and honored my right to stand on it, I became more in tune with all of the intuitive and innate ways that my body was strong and steady. I felt in tune with the pulse of the mountains that for lifetimes have pulled me into their fold.
Once I discovered the space rather than the effort of the pose, Tadasana changed. It is now a place of restoration and deep nourishment in my practice. When I stand fully in my feet and allow a moment for the intelligence of my cells to re-calibrate, interesting shifts happen. Without effort, my pelvis widens and my deep core awakens to sustain the connection with the earth beneath me. I feel that I am capable of containing all that I hold, instead of feeling overwhelmed or burdened by the weight of my “stuff.”
When I stand in Tadasana, my shoulders miraculously relax and return to their home in my back body; the heaviness of responsibility and the need to protect my fragile heart starts to dissipate; and I find my sternum lifting, my spine lengthening, and my breath deepening. My neck lengthens and lifts my crown to the sky, and I feel, without effort, the summit of myself, reaching and connecting with the vast expanse of sky above me, and the unshakable earth beneath me.
When we truly embody Tadasana, the ancient stability that is encoded in our cells becomes apparent. We remember how essential and unrushed our presence is. We feel more in tune with the natural ease and power of taking our time and fully embodying our form. We begin to feel at home in our body again. The exploration of Tadasana as a foundation for all other asana practice sets us free from the desire to achieve the perfect pose and allows our yoga practice to be an opportunity to reconnect to the unchanging beauty at our core.