My sister-in-law and I share a love of yoga. I recently took a road trip to Fairhope, Alabama (one of the prettiest small towns in the south) to visit her for a “yoga weekend”. We had a great weekend practicing together with Augusta Kantra and Roth Gates. I had been hearing how great Augusta’s classes were for quite some time and after participating in a few I agree. Augusta’s classes are full of energy, insight and inspiration! It was a pleasure to meet Roth Gates, author of Meditations From The Mat and have the opportunity to practice with him. I was struck by his authenticity, the truth he spoke and his vulnerability in doing so. Other highlights of the weekend included shopping at The Happy Olive where I purchased my now favorite preservative free balsamic vinaigrette (I have already ordered more since returning home) and having some great taco’s at the Dragonfly Foodbar. We also embarked on a paddle-boarding adventure. I had never attempted to paddle board before, and can safely say I would never have attempted this sport before yoga changed my life. Before I regularly practiced yoga I had struggled with my balance on dry land, so I had a hard time imagining myself balancing upright on a board on a rolling body of water. However, yoga has changed that for me, as it has so many other things in my life. With a confidence I didn’t have pre-yoga, I was all in!
As we were making our way to the place of entry, my sister-in-law began to explain how to stand up on the board. I listened intently to her instructions. All of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head as my mind translated her instructions into corresponding yoga poses. “Let’s see if I got that.” I said, “I should paddle out in Kneeling Pose and once out in the water come to Table Top, then Downward Dog, and then walk my hands back to my feet and slowly roll up to standing, grounding through my feet as I engage my body in Mountain Pose?” She paused for a moment and then with a broad smile said “Yes! That is exactly what I was trying to say!”
It may look as if you are just standing there, but Mountain Pose also called Tadasana (tah-DAHS-uh-nuh), is an active pose helping improve balance, posture, awareness and calm focus. It is said that every pose in yoga is mountain pose. What does that mean? Mountain Pose is the foundation pose for all other standing and balancing poses. In Mountain Pose we become present and aware, connecting all parts of the body using every muscle, grounding the lower body while engaging the core and finding alignment, equanimity and balance. Learning how to center ourselves in Mountain Pose is one way to integrate yoga into our everyday life. Mountain Pose teaches us how to stand firmly on our own two feet, finding the natural strength and alignment in the body. From this place we can extend outward to other poses with a confidence that makes more challenging poses possible.
Through a committed practice we can begin to take the principles of Mountain Pose into our life, grounding down, becoming present, and clearing the path for expansion. From this place of awareness we can begin to step out into a new adventure or tackle a challenging situation with a greater sense of confidence. Practicing Mountain Pose can allow one to move from the place of informal observation of the mind and body to a more formal place of observation, and can be done at any time in the flow of a yoga practice or on its own throughout the day, steadying the mind and body and bringing a calm focus to the one practicing.
Stand with the feet hip-width apart and take in a few deep, complete breaths. Keep your arms down with your fingers extended and triceps firm. Check to make sure your feet are facing straight ahead. Search for equanimity in your balance. Gently draw the muscles of the thighs closer to the bones of the thighs and bring the weight of your pelvis back, feeling your spine lift. Slightly engage the lower belly while lifting the heart and the crown of the head. Draw your shoulder blades down slightly toward your waist and just slightly draw them together. Hold your head in such a way that your line of vision is parallel with the floor. For most this will call for a slight drop in the chin toward the chest. Let your attention rest on your breathing. When standing in a balanced, open mountain pose, the breath will feel free and easy. Take 7-10 steady and smooth breaths. To work on balance, practice with the eyes closed. To come out of mountain pose, simply move into the next pose you are practicing or into your daily activities. Practice mountain pose throughout the day whenever you feel a need for centering.
So how did my first attempt at getting up on a paddle board go? I am happy to say it was successful. I stood up on my first try and maintained my balance as I paddled out into the water and back in again. It was a powerful moment both physically and mentally and great reminder of how yoga can enhance one’s life in so many ways!