Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yoga Pose of the Week

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Thanks to some amazing new photos by Sparrow, I will now be featuring a yoga posture every week to help you learn the fundamentals of postural alignment, breath, and awareness that are the essential components of practicing yoga. Even if you only practice one posture for 2 or 3 minutes a day, you will feel an expansion of awareness, and deepen your connection to your body and breath, all of which have an amazing capacity for self-transformation.

If you're shy about attending a group class because you're not sure you'll be able to keep up, or you don't want to feel stupid, these posts will be an excellent way to familiarize yourself with basic yoga practices, so that when you do finally muster up the courage to join a class, you won't feel totally clueless.

Today, I will explain in detail the most fundamental posture for proper standing alignment...

Tadasana: Mountain Pose

The importance of this basic standing posture is sometimes not fully appreciated by students of yoga, but it really is one of the most essential postures. It is a foundational posture that, through practice, improves your posture off the mat and teaches the basic proper alignment for all yoga poses. It creates space between the ribcage and pelvis, which encourages optimal breathing and the function of digestive organs. It develops awareness of the alignment of the physical body. Plus, this pose can be practiced anywhere you are standing...in line at the grocery store or the bank, waiting at the bus stop, etc. After some practice, you can even apply the cues below while walking to avoid sinking into your back and hips and strengthen the abdominal muscles.

The Practice

Proper Alignment:

  1. Stand with the feet hip width apart, parallel to each other. Lift the toes and press the inner and outer balls of the feet and heels into the earth. Gently release the toes to the earth, careful not to grip the floor with them.
  2. Lift the kneecaps up the thighs to activate the quads, careful not to lock the knees back.
  3. Lift the front, sides, and back of the ribcage up out of the pelvis, while lengthening down through the tailbone and feet. Draw the low abdomen in and up, and the lower front ribs up and back toward the spine, aligning the ribs over the pelvis.
  4. Widen across the collarbones and shoulderblades, careful not to pinch the shoulders back.
  5. Reach the arms down to the sides, lengthening through the fingertips.
  6. Allow the neck and head to float up and out of the spine, creating space through all of the vertebrae while maintaining a firm connection to the earth through the feet.

Expanding Breath and Awareness:

  1. Feel the body connected to the earth and sky, and as you inhale send the breath down towards the earth while sensing the upward lengthening of the body.
  2. As you exhale, feel the breath travel up the spine toward the sky while maintaining awareness of the connection to the earth.
  3. Allow the inhalation and exhalation to be equal in duration and quantity of air.
  4. Feel the stability and support of your body as though it is a large and stable mountain. Relax into your connection to the earth, expanding up and out from that solid connection.

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