Mountain pose is often touted as the prime posture for experiencing the inherent poise of properly performed Asana. What is poise, first? We should perhaps consider. Poise comes when we feel present in every fiber of our being. It feels like all your inner resources are right there at your beck and whim and you can play it as cool as having an ace in the hole. Physically, it is feeling balanced and at ease to deftly move in any direction.
Truth is, lately I think about mountain pose or “the upright standing posture” of people more often outside of the yoga class. I watch how people stand everywhere. I look inside them, and see their spine.
When we stand tall our bodies naturally moves towards balance. This means that all of our postural muscles are working with the appropriate weight load and don’t become stressed. All of our vertebrae, joints, and organs come close to an internal stasis, of having equal pressure.
The lungs also move towards this stasis and breath is distributed evenly to and from all portions of the lungs. I don’t need to cite all the benefits this has for your metabolism, immunity, mental health, etc.
So why does it seem many people slouch, have bad posture, or curl over with age? They are being pulled away from their center in one way or another. Physical objects like our gadgets pull us in, social confrontations pull us to a side so we feel stronger to move in a certain feeling or direction, and gravity pulls us down. It is also accepted that many peoples’ posture is a result of cultural conditioning. We hold ourselves the way we see other people do. All the more important for us than to be a good role models! To come back to center takes recognition, some concentration, and sometimes more. Keep going through the process. Be aware. Recognize. Re-adjust. Notice what it feels like to be in your balance physically. Consider what it means to be in emotional and intra-personal balance. Can you still feel poise when someone is creating invasive or reactive energies. When your in balance does it seem like there is a bigger world, more energy, or a better feeling about yourself? Keep doing it and make yourself new. This process of coming back to your physical balance center with the spine is the symbolic representation of bringing your self back to the present moment in which lay your real work and pleasure of discovering a new manifestation of your eternal soul.
Soo….to a group of readers who are probably very familiar with how to practice mountain pose, I lead you to my presentation now!
Mountain Pose – How to Stand Tall
A lot of people make a big deal out of feet in this pose. And as they should, the base affects the entire structure. We can spread our weight evenly on our feet in this pose easily. Place the feet so the big toes are touching side by side. Your heels may be slightly apart or touching. Put them in the place that makes you feel balanced in the center of your heel and you can put weight into the balls of your big toe and pinky toe.
You can also try placing the heels to the position that makes your legs face straight forward. Pay attention to the relationship of alignment from your toes, to your knees and upper thighs.When your feet are set right, your ankle joints should feel centered, or even hollow. When you are setting your feet it’s also good to lift and spread your toes as high as you can to wake up muscles and broaden your base for greater balance. If you are set in the feet but your knees seem rotated inwards or outward it may mean you need to develop balance in hip and thigh muscles.
With your alignment set you can now create the synergistic action of engaging the quadriceps to lift the knees and push down through the axis of your legs to “root in” to your feet. This kind of synergistic action should be created in all standing poses and in a similar way, into any part of your body that touches the ground to create lift in another part or vice versa. This makes mountain pose a model for proper asana practice. At the same time let the lower back lengthen down through the tailbone towards the floor and the pubic bone to lift slightly upwards, if at all. Here you should essentially be making the bowl of your pelvis level with the earth. All of these muscle contractions should be done to create a sense of poise but can also be engaged stronger on exhales to give you a therapeutic alignment “reset” if you will.
While you were doing all that you were probably already beginning to feel your posture growing taller. When you practice focus on the crown of your head and the sensation of being perfectly centered. You may feel slight sways in your posture. Don’t fight them, just feel where the center is, and increase your sensitivity and with practice you’ll stay there more easily. Let your breath also guide you in this. Observing the dimensions of your breath as it changes inside of you is powerful way to learn about your body and your balance. As for arms… I always say arms are for expressing so explore what feels right for your arms. I like to gently turn my palms forward to open the chest for breathing. Keep your head level and your face calm.
To me, mountain pose, and good posture in general, is as if a straight line is passing through the center of my head, the center of my hips, and the center of the earth. My body is soft and open, the spine feels comfortably suspended in the fluids and tissues of the body. I feel equally connected to the earth, aware of space all around me, and a little something extra special pulling me upwards and ever closer to my balance wth the center.