Asana Analysis: Mountain Pose/Tadasana
Deceptively simple, this posture is the foundation of asana. Understanding the subtleties of tadasana is essential for ‘doing’ yoga. Otherwise, postures will just be physical shapes and stretches devoid of full potential.
Muscles Strengthened* in Mountain Pose:
All anti-gravity muscles of the legs and trunk.
(*Not so much strengthening as much as neuromuscular modulation)
Points of Body Awareness:
*Is your weight equally distributed throughout your feet? Your arches should be slightly lifted with weight equally distributed among the inner and outer edges of the heel and the balls of the big and little toes. There should be symmetry between the right and left.
*Are you hyperextending your knees? There should be a very slight micro-bend in the knees.
*Is your spine in neutral alignment?
*Are your shoulders in line with your hips?
*Is your head lined up over your shoulders? If so, the chin will be parallel to the ground and the crown
of your head will be lifting up toward the ceiling, lengthening the spine.
*Can you feel yourself being grounded or rooting down from the navel, through your legs and into the
floor? Can you feel yourself rising up, lengthening from the navel, up through the spine toward the
*Do you feel a sense of alert relaxation?
*Can you focus your attention on your breath?
To Modify: Mountain pose can be done seated but instead of the weight being evenly distributed throughout just the feet, distribute your weight equally among all points of contact: the ‘sit bones’, the back of the legs and the feet. Tadasana can also be performed lying supine with the feet on a wall. While you won’t be working the legs and spine in an anti-gravity manner, you can still find optimal alignment and you can energetically lengthen the body in opposing directions.
To Challenge: Consider planks, handstands, headstands, etc to be advanced versions of tadasana. The bottom line with all these postures is to find optimal alignment and maintain the pose with a sense of alert relaxation. Another interesting challenge for tadasana is the ‘pez dispenser’ exercise. This is really an inquiry into how to find the ideal alignment of the hips. Place a block between the thighs. Roll the thighs back (External Rotation of the hips) to move the block forward. Roll the the legs in (Internal Rotation of the hips) to move the block backward. As you do this, notice how the alignment of the feet, pelvis and lower back change. Experiment until you find the most optimal neutral position for your body.
Physical Therapy Notes: All PTs should recognize instruction in mountain pose as essentially, standing posture re-education. But tadasana should go a step further than just physical alignment cues. There is the energetic aspect of feeling a sense of grounding and lengthening and there is the mental aspect of alert relaxation and focus on the breath. I know that in my own practice, I have at times rushed past the basics, especially when I sense that the patient or client is physically capable of doing more. But a yoga practice, as opposed to just postural re-education, will inform us and our patients of so much more than just physical knowledge. Tadasana can change from day to day, even moment by moment, depending on what is happening in our bodies and minds. By ‘checking in’ with mountain posture before moving on to other postures or exercises, our clients will be able to learn much more than just the ideal alignment of spinal curves.