Building Foundations in Yoga – Part 1
When starting out in yoga it can be quite daunting to be faced with the myriad of poses, many of them seemingly unattainable and unpronounceable! So here is a guide to a series of foundational yoga poses which will allow you to begin to build confidence and self-awareness in your yoga practice. Like anything in life, it is worth learning the basics first. We all need to take those first few steps, become master of our own two feet before we can begin to walk or even run.
Over the next few weeks we will explore the four seed poses in yoga and in your body. We will break down the building blocks which hold the intelligence and framework for all other asana. They are very simply grouped into Standing, Seated, Prone (lying on your tummy) and Supine (lying on your back). As you begin to explore and understand how these poses feel in your body you can use their blueprint to move into other shapes.
Tadasana, pronounced (tah-DAHS-anna) is also known as Mountain Pose is the seed pose for all other standing asana (poses).
Standing, easy right? I mean, we stand all the time, two feet on the floor, try and stay upright and there you go, Tada-sana! It is a little more complicated than that. For such a seemingly simple pose it actually requires great concentration and balance throughout the entire body. Tada means “mountain” and in this asana you are encouraged to find ease and stability, stillness and strength like a mountain in both body and mind. If you are anything like me, I certainly didn’t stand like this to start with. I was a little more of a hip out to the side kind of gal, my weight shifted onto one side and I had a bit of a turn in the other foot, not quite a mountain but perhaps more of a storm damaged tree. And like that tree, my posture brought with it a few creaks, aches and a little unsteadiness on my feet; I literally bumped into things quite often so there was certainly no focus or stability to my body or mind. Alas all was not lost; I simply relearned how to stand. So, how do you do it?
Let’s start with where you are right now. If you are suffering from a headache, insomnia or low blood pressure then show caution, read on and then decide on the best time to practice for your needs.
Take your shoes off and stand, don’t over think it, just stand as you normally would. Now have a look at your feet. Are they turned out or in? Are they parallel to each other? Is your stance set wide or very close together? Just observe.
Start to feel into the soles of your feet. Where can you feel the weight resting? Perhaps later, you can take a look at your shoes and see where they wear out, if they wear evenly or always through the heel, big toe area or inner edges for example.
Now seek a little further, noticing the legs, hips and abdomen. Do you feel as though your tummy drops forward and your backside sticks out? Maybe you feel a little jammed through your lower back, heavy into your feet or tight in the hamstrings. Perhaps your backside tucks under and it feels like your shoulders round forward, or it may be that you feel long and tall. Don’t worry about judging yourself; just keep collecting knowledge about your body as you continue the scan.
Travel a little further and notice the shoulders, neck, chin and head. Is there any tension here? Does your head feel like it hangs forward, your chin jutting out or maybe you notice length in your neck, space between your ears and shoulders? All this observation will allow you to become aware of your body in space, how you hold yourself against gravity and give you a place to start.
Now let’s see if we can capture the essence of Tadasana.
Use the image below and work from the foundation up again, this time feeling into the alignment of the body and bringing it into balance. You can always use a wall as a rough guide for checking your alignment in this pose. Stand with the backs of your heels, sacrum, and shoulder blades (but not the back of your head) gently touching the wall and see if you can balance the crown of your head directly over the centre of your pelvis and feel the weight evenly distributed across the feet.
As with anything in yoga, this needs to feel right in your body, if it doesn’t, then stop. We all come to the mat with our unique anatomy, health and life experiences and must make space for these in our practice.
If you seek further knowledge or advice, please feel free to speak to any of the lovely staff at Yoga & Health Collective.
by Katie Dutton