While tadasana, or mountain pose, as it is commonly called, may appear simple, it can be one of the most profound and revealing postures in yoga. It can also be surprisingly intimidating to teach. Standing freely at the top of the mat can leave a student, as well as a teacher, feeling vulnerable. We fidget, and we want to hide. At times I’ve considered renaming tadasana “water break pose” or “fix my shirt pose.” I realized that I was afraid to teach mountain pose with what I thought were a million eyeballs looking at me (although they weren’t looking at me at all).
But the fear of students staring at them is not the only reason some teachers neglect tadasana. I admit that I would sometimes fly past tadasana instruction in class, wanting to fast-forward to the more “interesting” poses in my sequence. I took for granted the importance of showing students how to stand confidently and establish themselves with their feet firmly on the floor. As teachers, we should not assume that when we say the word “tadasana” the class will automatically perk up into an upright position with spot-on alignment.
The fear of students staring at them is not the only reason some teachers neglect tadasana.
As a teacher or as a student, you may have asked yourself: Is this pose really that important? Yes, it is. Not only can it teach us neutral alignment as a launching point from which to twist, forward bend, backbend, invert, and so forth, it can also teach us how to be comfortable in our own skin. So, if tadasana is not your cup of tea, what then might you do to make it a more compelling pose to practice and to teach?
The ponytail adjustments, water breaks, and wardrobe fixing are a result of being outside of the body and the full experience of yoga. Find ways to stay present while in tadasana, and stay in the experience. For example: As you lower your arms from upward salute into tadasana, feel the texture of the mat under your feet. Continue to feel the mat texture as you rock your weight forward and backward, like a pendulum. Move inward into your experience, feeling your inner pendulum and the beating of your heart. Continue with explorations like this one and you’ll observe how “water breaks” become less important—and standing in tadasana becomes a training in stillness.
Props expand a yogi’s experience. Standing in tadasana can feel like just that—standing. Place a block between your feet to help you feel the muscles of the feet actively engage, pressing the inner edge of the big toe mound into the block and down toward the floor as you lift the inner ankles away from the block. Then place a block between your inner thighs to feel a rising sensation of support from the inner thigh muscles into the core. Or stand in front of a wall and place a block between your sacrum and the wall to learn how to move your tailbone into your body and down toward the backs of the thighs.
The potential of using blocks to feel and understand tadasana is enormous!
Changing how we envision tadasana can create a whole new field of opportunities for exploration: supine tadasana, prone tadasana, inverted tadasana, upright tadasana, and suspended tadasana (the entire body floating away from the floor, supporting all of the major joints with blocks).
If you’re a teacher, try standing in the back of the room when you teach tadasana. This will discourage students’ eyes from following you—helping them to hear and feel what you are teaching, and to better embody the posture.
Acknowledge both the power and the challenge of tadasana. Shed light on the fact that, despite its simplicity, tadasana can be scary and intimidating. We don’t often stand so balanced and exposed as we do in tadasana, which means that a lot of emotions can arise and manifest as physical movements (e.g., making a ponytail or using that time to roll up your strap). When we face the emotions head-on—strong in tadasana, and surrounded by others in tadasana who are facing their own emotions—we often don’t feel so alone in what we feel. This creates an open space for discovering what makes tadasana both easy to attain and difficult to practice without judgment.
Giving tadasana a place in your practice grants you a few moments to stand evenly and present in your life. A space to stand on your own two feet, even when you feel that those two feet can’t possibly hold you up because of what life has thrown your way. And those who practice from a seated position can also feel the positive and balancing effects of tadasana—a long spine, a spacious heart, and a more enlightened head.
Tadasana builds the awareness and the space upon which the rest of the practice is founded. Practice and teach tadasana, and you will be revealed.