Nothing exposes our minds for the busy monkeys they are quite as well as standing in Tadasana.
After all, most of us have been standing since we were a year old. We already know how to stand, in a way that we don’t know how to do triangle pose, or warrior II.
That’s why setting a timer and holding the pose can be so enlightening.
First, you get to focus on the basic alignment – an alignment that has to be maintained in every other standing pose.
Then you can start to exercise that most basic discipline of yoga: constant inquiry into the body and its balance.
And in between, you can practice bringing your mind back, time and time again, to the alignment, and the inquiry.
You need a timer: without it, checking the time becomes a major distraction.
Plan to spend five to 10 minutes in the pose if you have an established practice, less if you’re just starting out. Even one timed minute can be illuminating.
Stand at the centre of your mat. Press your big toe mounds and little toe mounds into the floor.
Firm your kneecaps and lift your front thigh muscles. Move your front thighs toward your back thighs until you bring your weight into your heels. Continue to press your toe mounds down.
Now drop your buttocks toward the floor. Compact your thighs by pulling the heads of your thighbones deeper into your hip sockets.
Turn your palms forward and lift your hands about two feet away from your thighs. Draw your arms back, then turn your palms toward your thighs, and let your hands come back to your sides, thumbs just behind the centre thigh. You’ll feel your side ribcage lifting.
Draw your fingertips toward the floor to move your shoulder blades down your back. Press the bottom edge of your shoulder blades into your rib cage and lift your chest.
Look out at eye level, and relax your gaze.
If you want to stretch your arms up, place your hands in namaste, or in reverse namaste, then do it, but don’t move your feet. Keep your awareness focused on your body in Tadasana.
Notice when your balance shifts to one side or another, when you find your front thighs moving forward, when your pubic bone drops, or you lose awareness in your hips or your upper chest. Especially notice when your mind wanders. Continue to check your alignment and adjust.
When the timer goes off, come into forward bend (Uttanasana), step back into downward facing dog, stay for several breaths and then fold into pose of the child.
Benefits: Holding Tadasana lets you practice steadiness and concentration in a pose that is not challenging. By spending time in the pose you will learn the subtle balance required to just stand still. And because Tadasana is the basis of all other poses, time spent in Tadasana helps you achieve alignment in more challenging poses.
Sequence: Take five minutes for this practice whenever you have the time. You can practice Tadasana in the supermarket checkout line, at the bus stop, at a party, or at any other time you can pay attention to the way you are standing.
In a longer practice, try holding Tadasana for several minutes before beginning the standing poses, and again, at the end. Notice how the feeling of the pose has changed.
Sanskrit Corner: Say tah-DAH-sanna. Tada means a mountain. Asana means pose.