What better pose to write about for the first blog on my revamped website than Tadasana? Tadasana, also known as Mountain Pose, is our neutral standing posture, and it is the foundation for all standing yoga poses.
On the surface, Tadasana might seem to be "simply" standing upright, but it’s hard to stand up straight in a way that sleeves and supports the wave-like curves of your spine in a healthy way. You need strength and mobility in the feet and ankles as they negotiate balance and provide the foundation for this gently fluid pose, strong legs and hips supporting a neutral pelvis, core muscles of the torso supporting your spine and shoulders, and the ability to keep your head neutrally balanced atop your spine. All while resisting the pull of gravity!
The benefits of good posture are global. Good posture improves breathing mechanics (which helps everything), allows for more ease in how your body adapts to the stresses put on it, relieves muscular tension, helps alleviate neck and back pain, decreases wear and tear on your joints and ligaments, aids digestion, and may help reduce headaches and even improve your mood.
Ease in Tadasana can be challenged by many things: injuries, structural or functional asymmetries throughout the body, the physical demands (or lack thereof) of many jobs, the time we spend with our feet encased in shoes and high heels, our adjustment to the weight of purses and backpacks we carry, and the hours we spend slumped in front of or looking down at screens.
In 2012, my posture was very challenged during my twin pregnancy. In my second trimester, the increasing weight of the babies front-loaded in my abdomen started causing me periods of intense middle-back pain. At 5 months I could barely walk up a ramp without being doubled over and out of breath, so my yoga practice had to swiftly adapt to these changes. In this new body, Tadasana became the pose I practiced most, adjusting what I needed to do to stand up straight and support my spine to decrease my middle back pain. I mindfully practiced Tadasana all day throughout the activities of my day.
Someone once told me about a twin mom who practiced in an intense vinyasa class until two days before she gave birth. Not me! I prioritized rest, which I knew I needed, and good posture, setting myself up for success with the tools I would need as a new mother. What that other mom did might have been right for her, but it definitely was not for me.
Tadasana was challenged differently after my kids were born, My abdominal musculature was slack, and I had new physical demands: carrying the babies and their gear, lots of squatting up and down to pick them up, and manuevering them in and out of car seats. (I think motherhood has been more challenging to my body than twin pregnancy…but that’s a blog for another day!)
There are a million places online that you can find global cues for Tadasana. Here are three such places: Yoga Journal, Iyengar, Viniyoga. General cues are a great place to start, but the point of this blog is twofold:
Mothers are right: it's important to practice good posture. (And hopefully those mothers are modeling it for their kids.) Cultivate awareness of it throughout your day.
We all have different bodies, habits and constitutions, and this always is changing, so there isn't one set of instructions that is right for everybody. What is strong in one person might be weak in another, and we need a blend of work to be strong and supple in our spines and posture.