The great thing about yoga is that it cultivates awareness of one's body that permeates into life outside of the yoga studio. I don't think I'd ever thought too much about how I stood, apart from perhaps trying to develop a nonchalant hips thrust forward slouch as a teenager, but since taking up yoga in my twenties I definitely stand taller and my elevated posture certainly elevates my mood too. It's no coincidence that depressed folk have a 'crest-fallen' look.
The basic standing pose in Yoga, Tadasana – Mountain pose, is a good place to start. Stand barefoot on a smooth, uncarpeted floor. bring the root of the big toes together, bring the inner heels together (if this feels difficult then separate the feet a little but see that the outer edges of the feet are in line).
Lift and stretch the toes, spreading them apart. Spread the weight evenly between the balls of the feet and the heels. From this firm base draw the kneecaps in and up, draw up the quadricep muscles on the front of the thighs and feel the hips narrow a little. Tuck the tailbone under.
Extend the arms down beside the trunk with the palms facing the thighs (I sometimes imagine little weights on my wrists) and as you do this lift the ribcage and chest. Lift the sternum, the breastbone, up and align the head and neck evenly at the top of the spine so that the base of the skull is in line with the base of the spine, feel as though the crown of the head is being drawn toward the ceiling. Lift and extend the collarbones toward the shoulders and roll the shoulders back and down. Breathe normally as you do this - soft , smooth breaths breathing through the nose, and feel the breath filling the side ribs and the side chest. Take care not to strain, the face and throat are relaxed.
Practising like this can be done almost anywhere and even just spending 30 seconds or so in the pose gives rise to a sense of firmness, strength, stillness and steadiness. You can correct bad posture and even counter some of the degenerative effects of ageing on the spine, legs and feet.
I love the simplicity of it!
There are plenty of wow-factor poses in yoga, and I’m sure I’ll talk about those another time, but I’ve come to realise that Tadasana provides the foundation for all the fancy stuff. You can’t run until you can stand.
Until next time...