Just One Pose: Mountain

Our “Just One Pose” posts answer the question: “If I have time to do just one pose, what should it be?” This one is the most express of all, and you can do it virtually anywhere: mountain pose (tadasana). It’s simply standing there—simply, and profoundly just standing there.

(Smokey) Mountain Pose
(Smokey) Mountain Pose

Why

When you learn to pay attention in mountain pose, both to your alignment and to your breath, you’ll have the ideal foundation for virtually every other pose. And you’ll gain experience in being present with what is happening right now, that is, mindfulness.

How

Stand tall with your feet under your knees and your knees under your hips. Experiment with the most comfortable distance between your feet. Hold your weight even across your feet. Level your pelvis so you feel your core muscles lightly engage. Lift through the crown of your head. Relax your shoulder blades down, and try rolling your thumbs out, as in the photo above, then keep that broadness across your chest and drop your arms by your sides. Take several breaths while feeling the groundedness through your feet and the lift through your spine.

Variations

Mountain pose is portable! You can and should do it anywhere. Shake things up by:

  • Closing your eyes. If that’s too destabilizing, blink in long intervals.
  • Lifting your arms. With your arms lifted, tuck your lowest ribs in so you aren’t arching your back.
  • Lifting your heels. Challenge your balance by creating some space between your heels and the floor. This could be a millimeter or six inches, depending on your balance. Keep breathing!
  • Finding mountain pose in a chair. Keep your ankles and knees in line as you reach your spine tall from your pelvis.

—Sage

Continuing Basics: Even Better Balance

My post Basics: Build Better Balance explains how to progressively challenge your balance by standing on one leg on increasingly unstable surfaces. Once you’ve built that strength, you can find a new challenge in reducing the amount of surface area in contact with the floor.

Standing in bare feet on a hard surface, find the good lines of mountain pose: a neutral pelvis, a long spine, a broad chest without a big backbend. Step your legs together, creating as much contiguous surface area as you can—this will make things easier. Lift your arms and your heels. You’ll probably wobble back and forth; tighten in toward the midline with both your legs and your core muscles, and use your gaze to help you balance.

Lift your heels a little or a lot as you maintain a steady mountain-pose alignment
Lift your heels a little or a lot as you maintain a steady mountain-pose alignment; photo from my latest workshop on Yoga for Athletes at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

Sweeter

If this is tough, sweeten the experience by:

  • Keeping your heels quite low to the ground
  • Resting one or both hands on a wall or counter
  • Keeping your arms straight off to the sides, rather than overhead
  • Looking down at the floor, as you’ll see me (in blue, on platform) doing in the photo above

    Spicier

If this is quite easy, intensify the experience by:

  • Separating your heels to hip distance, instead of having your legs tough
  • Lifting your gaze to eye level or closing your eyes
  • Bending your knees and lowering your hips down and back, as if sitting into an invisible chair while wearing invisible high heels

Either way, keep your core engaged and your breath flowing. Slotting a few rounds of this balance pose into your week will keep you steadier as you move through space in your sport.

—Sage