Tadasana - The Still Mountain Inside
When I was doing my yoga teacher training at Krishna Village, as trainee teachers we were required to teach real live people from almost our first week of yoga school. It was the good kind of terrifying where we had to from the outset be it till we were it. We were yoga teachers, and that doesn't happen unless you are, well, teaching. Each of us had to choose a pose to teach in our first class, and I chose tadasana or mountain pose. I know what you are thinking - that's the easiest pose to teach that isn't savasana!
The truth about tadasana is that for me, it is a pose that actually exemplifies the aspects of yoga I love. I love all of the limbs of yoga, but I especially love this pose, as, much like savasana, it asks us to do one thing that we humans find incredible difficult - stilling down and turning inwards. BKS Iyengar is a yoga luminary and one of the teachers largely responsible for bringing yoga to the west. His books on yoga are beautiful, highly recommended. He said when he came to the west, he realised that our minds were so restless and wild, that the only limb of yoga we would be able to handle initially would be asana, as the physicality was what was needed to get ourselves out of our heads, into our bodies so we could calm down, breathe and get some discipline. Then, and only then, would some of us be drawn to look at the whole spectrum of yoga.
I think BKS was on the money, and his other words that I particularly like, is his description of asana postures as being done from the inside out, rather than the way I suspect most of us do them is to try and position our bodies into the shape we think that pose should look like. The reason I choose to do tadasana or mountain pose for that very first class I taught wasn't that I wanted a pose that was easy to remember. It was that I had been inspired by another yoga class I had been to with a teacher that at the beginning of the class, asked each of us to enter the sequence as though we had never ever done yoga before. We were asked to put down our identities and egos and lululemon attitudes, and return to the wonder of union with ourselves and the divine.
By stepping into beautiful simple expressions of yoga asana without any efforting or striving, just embodying the breath and the posture from the inside out, I think all of us had a profound reminder that we are always the students, and sometimes the teachers. When I teach tadasana, I always build the posture slowly from the feet up. I want students to be acutely in the now with their toes, the soles of their feet, their ankles. I want them and me to feel our bodies rooted into the ground like a mountain, our ancient stone and soil beginningless and endless time. I want us to feel the impermanence of something we perceive as so solid and permanent, but like our bodies is subtly changing moment to moment. I want them to realise the illusion of our minds and experiences, and perhaps tadasana looks like an easy posture, but for some is an impossibility and we have to merge into those experiences as well for the people suffering and unable to stand tall and strong.
Tadasana as a posture builds up through the calves, knees and thighs, each a block of active resting, into the hips and trunk and chest and shoulders and neck and arms and hands and finally the crown of the mountain, where you can stop and observe yourself from the inside out, your breath like the ocean, your body like a mountain. Still, changing, organic, a monument to the vast unknown. When things seem all kinds of cray, take a moment to take yourself from basecamp to the pinnacle of your mountain, and release all of the thinking minds drama into the ground for a moment, or a lifetime.