September 14, 2014

5 Reasons to Return to the Mountain. ~ Hannah Lipman

Return to the Mountain

Throughout my years of practicing and teaching yoga, there is one pose that I find we all could give more attention to.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose), is a vital pose of the Surya Namaskara series and should be a vital pose to all yoga practices. Tadasana has several benefits and the ability to transform our perspective on life. Here are my five reasons why I feel we all should return to the mountain.

1. Up-Right Body Scan:

I’ve found Tadasana to be a great pose to scan the body before and after practice. Doing a body scan from an up-right position allows us to really feel how we are carrying ourselves that day. Here is an example of an easy body scan…

“With eyes closed or soft gaze ahead, first bring your mind to your feet. Notice where you are putting most of your weight on your feet. Try to even out your weight so you are supported by all four corners of your feet (your big toe mound, pinky toe mound, inner and out heal).

If you feel any residue in your feet (aches or pains) send the breath to clear it out. Now move your mind to your legs. Most of us lean forward in our legs, which puts stress on our ankles and doesn’t allow us to even out our weight in our feet. Think thighs back and knee caps lifted. Again if you feel any residue here send the breath to clear it out.

Bring your mind to your hips. Notice if you feel your belly pushing forward and an arch in your lower back. If yes, hug  your lower belly in and up. Notice how you don’t have an arch in your lower back now or your belly pushing forward. Be aware of the way your hips and lower back feel. If you’re feeling residue send the breath to clear it out.

Allow your mind to travel to your chest. Take notice if your chest is pushing forward.  For us yogini we tend to push our chest out. Take a deep breath and relax your ribs down. This should lessen the pushing out of the chest. If not, continue to take deep breaths till you feel your chest relax down. As your mind is here at your chest, take awareness of the flow of your breath. Try to even out the inhale and exhale.

Now bring your mind to your shoulders. Take a few small shoulder rolls to work out any tension you might feel here. For most of us, we tend to hold tension in our shoulders which heightens them towards our ears. To lessen this heightening, inhale, lift the shoulders to your ears, exhale relax the shoulders back and down. Take a few breaths here and allow the breath to clear out any stress you might feel.

Let the mind come to your neck and head. Notice if your chin is jutting forward or you feel like your head is falling back. A cure for both of these is to align the ears with shoulders. Now that you have made your way from feet to head, root your feet down and grow up out of your head. Allow your chin to be parallel to the floor.”

2. Standing Meditation:

It might sound strange, but standing meditation is just another way to meditate. Meditation allows us to take a gaze inward to clear our mind of the everyday chatter and to see the interconnectedness of all things. As Mara Carrico writes in Let’s Meditate, “Standing is another meditation practice that can be very powerful. It is often recommended for those practitioners who find that it builds physical, mental and spiritual strength.”

To practice standing meditation it is best to stand with your feet hip distance apart. Allow your knees to be soft and arms to rest comfortably along your sides. There are two options for eyes in standing mediation, either allow your eyes to have a soft gaze ahead or close them. Standing meditation is great for beginners to meditation. Try standing meditation for anywhere between five to 15 minutes.

3. An Over-Looked Yoga Pose:

I’ve found tadasana to be a commonly unused pose in classes I go to and within my own classes I teach. Many yoga teachers (including myself) over-look tadasana and the benefits this pose poses. As a yoga teacher, I find that I rarely teach tadasana other then in Surya Namaskara series.

It wasn’t till I recently started adding tadasana into my personal yoga practice and teachings that I truly noticed the wonderful benefits of this pose. Tadasana helps us to improve our posture, strengthen our standing muscles in our thighs, knees, and ankles, and builds core/ butt muscles. Some also say tadasana therapeutically can relieve sciatic pain and can reduce flat feet and/or reduce inner or outer turn out of feet.

4. Om-ing while standing:

I know. I know. All of us are so use to om-ing seated right after our yoga teacher gives us their theme or dharma talk, but om-ing while standing is amazing. Standing om-ing allows us to find a deeper belly om that projects out in a deeper resonating sound. Also we get to om while in tadasana!

Recently I have been om-ing in tadasana before I start my salute to the sun, and I find that my om is richer in sound and fills the space around me more. Its not that the sound is louder, but that it’s like om-ing on top of a mountain, which allows the sound to reach out further. I have also taught om-ing while standing in many of my yoga classes and I find that my students and I seem to really drop in deeper and become more in tuned with each other. Standing om-ing allows us to connect to each other on a different level then sitting om-ing.

5. Daily Reminder of the Ever-Changing:

Yoga in and of itself is transformational, and so is tadasana. I started standing in tadasana in front of my mirror every morning when I first got out of a really bad relationship four years ago. Each day I took notice of my posture, my facial expression, and the way my body felt. Every morning for a year I would look in that mirror and I would notice a change in my body. I was becoming more aware of the true me and the support my body gives myself on a daily basis.

I found tadasana allows me to became more present in all aspects of my life including my relationship to myself. I began to set an intention for myself each day as I stood at the mirror, which helped me to stay mindful for the rest of the day. I found tadasana helped me to return to my sacredness in its purest form. I would like to offer us all the chance to feel tadasana and notice the change over time.

So the lovely small challenge is to stand in tadasana every day for two minutes for a week (or month) to feel the ever-changing posture we have as humans, to feel the ever-changing moments of our lives, to be aware of our inner intention and to discover our true self.

Ho’i i ka mauna a hali’a i ka la’a kapu ou

Return to the mountain and remember your sacredness.

This Hawaiian saying was taught to me by the beautiful goddess Jessie Kaleinohea Cleghorn.




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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Author’s own




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