Updated: Sep 8
Do you ever wonder why we constantly return to tadasana between the standing poses? Is it just a coincidence or is there something special about the pose that - perhaps - we're missing?
Tadasana is also known as the Mountain Pose: it's strong and dynamic, like a mountain. This inherent strength is part of the reason we return to tadasana time and again.
But there's more to tadasana than just intermediary strength and repose.
Tadasana teaches us how to stand, how to breathe, how to listen and see, how to feel, and how to be. And it holds secrets that can be brought into practically every other asana; and into life.
This article is about one of the most dynamic learning vessels we have in yoga, and it can teach us to see, hear, feel, sense, and breathe.
The World Makes Way For The Determined Person
I remember reading that very phrase over twenty years ago: The World Makes Way For The Determined Person.
I was in my twenties, and life felt like it was going nowhere. I was an aspiring singer-songwriter at the time, working at a call centre to make ends meet. It was a particularly uninspiring, yet inspiring time. And it was when I was discovering yoga.
I remember seeing that phrase; completely out of the blue. And I remember feeling that it was significant - prophetic - and it meant something to me. It was roughly Sharpied onto a polystyrene floatation aid: THE WORLD MAKES WAY FOR THE DETERMINED PERSON. And I saw it as I lifted myself out of the water; scrawled with intention and purpose on a float that had been left at the side of the pool.
It created an image in my head of a person walking in the opposite direction to a crowd of others; and as the person walks forward, the crowd parts for them. But it wasn't because of aggression - it was because of positivity.
And I was left with this feeling that positive energy is strong if it can be accessed; and the world makes way for your positive intentions.
What's this got to do with tadasana?
And I think that that image came back to me when I started to write this article because that's how I see tadasana: a strong beacon of energy, radiating from the feet upwards, and glowing like a tower of positive energy.
And the world listens when you learn to listen. And - for me - yoga is about learning to listen and learning to see.
Tadasana isn't just THE central standing pose; what you learn in tadasana, you bring to everything you do.
Tadasana gives you roots: a firm foundation that grounds you and gives you a starting point. Like the roots of a tree splaying and spreading into the earth, tadasana gains its strength from the ground, providing stability for the trunk of the tree.
Roots spread; and so can the toes and the soles of the feet. And the more you activate your feet, the more you can lift from the tips of your toes, through to the heel and into the legs.
The legs provide stability and - in connection with the feet - they allow us to defy gravity and to lift.
There's an upward extension of the legs in tadasana: the shins lift away from the ankle; the knees lift up from the shins towards the thighs; and the thighs lift away from the knees and into the hip socket.
With firmness in the legs learned from tadasana, we learn how to operate and activate our legs in the standing poses.
The pelvis provides the fulcrum between the legs and the torso. It contains the hips, and has great potential for rotational operation.
But mechanics aside, the pelvis in tadasana can become the energetic centre of the body; radiating energy down into the legs and up into the torso, the arms, the neck, and the head. The tailbone tucks inwards so that the front of the pelvis lifts upwards; up into the abdomen, which - in turn - lifts up into the thorax.
The front chest lifts, as the back chest descends. One of my past teachers, Marion Kilburn, described the action as "a river that flows upwards from the naval towards the collar bones, rolling up and over the shoulders like a waterfall".
The torso contains the organs of respiration and digestion and the principal organs of circulation. But - organic body aside - the torso lifts out of the pelvis as if it's filled with helium; bringing energy into the chest and priming the body for breathing (allowing the body to accommodate the breath).
Perhaps the breath is a strange thing to include in a description of tadasana - but if we learn to breathe consciously, evenly, and with observation in tadasana, then we have a greater chance of bringing that same energising breath into the more strenuous poses.
The breath is equatable to energy in yoga - it's our connection to prana (breath energy). And if we learn to breath deeply and fully, then we don't get tired in a pose.
But we need to learn to make the body accommodate the breath - just as we learn to make the breath accommodate the mind.
The mind is separate from the intellect; it's easily distracted. And learning to focus on the physical body helps to quieten the noise of the mind.
The mind is a butterfly if it's left to its own devices. It flits from one leaf to another, with little focus on the moment (although the analogy runs out there because the butterfly is probably more focused on collecting nectar than that description gives it credit).
But jumping from one leaf to the next is what the mind does - one minute you're thinking about tucking in the tailbone, then next you're wondering whether you left the iron on.
The mind is invited into the physical and energetic body by learning to focus on the physical action of the bones, the muscles, the flesh, and the skin; while following the movement and the action of the breath.
The breath is the conduit to the present moment - and we draw the attention of the mind into the body by learning to breathe fully, consciously, and deeply through tadasana.
The arms are similar to the legs - they contain the same amount of principal bones, and typically have five digits at the end of them. That doesn't mean that yoga can't be practiced by those who don't have five digits (or even arms or legs) - but for those bodies, we work differently (and similarly).
We work with what we have - and that is always enough.
The arm extends from the shoulders into the tips of the fingers (or whatever is at its end). And at the same time, the fingers extend up into the armpits.
The Neck and the Head
The neck is part of the spine, and so joins the torso in its ascendance towards the head. There's space in the neck for elevation and you could compare it as the string to a helium balloon (the balloon being the head).
So, from the tips of the toes and all the way towards the head, we learn - through tadasana - to correct our posture; to learn elevation and extension; to accommodate the breath (and thus provide an entry point to the energetic body and a conduit for the mind into the present moment); and to discover how the body responds to gravity, energy, and the "well-being form" of the determined person.
Tadasana is the physical embodiment of determination, focus, positive action, and clarity. And we bring those central discoveries into every pose; upright, seated, supine, or inverted.
Tadasana's Influence On Everything We Do: The Weekend Workshop
The first of our Back-2-Basics Weekend Workshops is called "Tadasana's Influence on Everything We Do" and we'll be spending time, learning the basics of the pose.
But we're not just going to be standing upright all the way through the 2-hour session.
We're going to focus on tadasana to create a framework from which to explore. Then we'll examine how tadasana can be "found", recognised, and incorporated into adho mukha svanasana (dog down), uttitha trikonasana (triangle pose), the warrior poses, the seated poses, and even the inversions.
We'll learn to release the breath INTO the pose; and how you might free your energy, providing a feeling of well-being, positivity, and an energetic drive that you take into the rest of the day with you.
Bookings Now Open: Suitable for Beginners and Experienced
The first workshop will run on Saturday, 12th September, between midday and 2pm (BST).
And because the session is running online (via Zoom), we have plenty of capacity for people to join in.
So, whether you've been practising yoga for years or you've never done it before, this session will help you to understand the fundamentals of asana that you'll be able to take into your ongoing practice and into your everyday life; bearing the form and the will of the determined person.
Book now for your weekend workshop.
Free Class - Online Yoga Classes
Try out my free online yoga class session below: