offers the exquisite experience of deeply connecting us with the earth, nature and every living thing on the planet. The very name of the pose conjures up images of strength, vigor and steadfast resolve as well as beauty, transformation and life. What qualities arise in you while holding Tadasana? How can you take these with you off the mat? There is much to learn from this asana though it appears as if one is simply standing upright. As many yogis have come to understand, every pose provides endless opportunities for self-discovery, all we have to do is be ready and willing to receive what is offered.
The foundation of any yoga posture is important for the stability of that pose, just as the foundation of a building should be solid in order for it to remain upright. The first chakra is focused on stability and the security it offers.
To begin, stand in front of the mirror to help find the correct alignment for your body. Place your feet sitting bone width apart (when you stand your thigh bones are parallel). With some space between your feet you will increase your stability.
Next, draw an imaginary line from the middle of your ankle to the base of the 2ndtoe on both feet. These two lines should be parallel. Adjust the feet until they are.
If you look in the mirror from the side, the legs should be straight. Here the ankle, knee and hip line up. Watch that your knee doesn’t hyperextend (the back of the knee is farther back than the middle of the ankle). If it does, you will need to keep your knee slightly bent in all of your standing poses. This will build strength in your knee joint so that is stays healthy instead of straining the ligaments in the back of the knee.
As you move the hip crease back to line up with the knee, allow the inner thighs to move back faster than the outer thighs. This action will soften the groins and cause an inner rotation of the legs. As you hold this action, extend your tailbone towards the earth. You should feel a strong lift in the perineum and the lower belly as your pelvis roots towards the floor. This encourages an expansion of the pelvis which connects us toward the earth as we lift through the spine.
Lengthen the sides of your body from the top of the hips up to the armpits (like you are shrugging). Move the head of the arm bones back, to line up with the middle of your hips. As you move your ears back without tilting your head, rotate your shoulder blades down and in towards the back of your heart. You will feel an opening in the front of the chest as the muscles in your upper back engage, supporting the heart opening.
If you held a string with a weight at the end in line with your ear it would be in line with the middle of your shoulder, wrist, hip, knee and ankle. For most people it will feel like your head and shoulder blades are too far back. This is because as we age our shoulders round forward and our chin lifts to compensate. As you practice good alignment your posture will improve dramatically without having to think about it.
As our posture improves, our heart and chest open which communicates to ourselves and others a higher level of self-confidence and open heartedness. This will bring in more joy into our day-to-day experience.
Hold this Mountain pose and take a few long deep breaths. Feel the earth and its support. Soften the effort. Experience the support. Keep your body stable as you move the arms up from the sides towards the sky as you inhale. Feel the stretch at the end of that inhale. On the exhale, slowly release your arms back to your sides. Allow the breath to be slow and deep by toning the throat so that your breath sounds like a wave. Feel how stable you can be even with the movement of your arms. After a few rounds of movement with your breath bring your hands down to prayer (Anjali Mudra) at your heart center.
Take a few breaths in this position with your eyes closed and think of your intention for doing this workbook. As you reflect on your intention imagine that it is a stone and drop it into the pond of your heart. Let the ripples of your intention move outwards into the universe so that it might support your highest dreams.
When you’re complete, open your eyes and notice how you may feel differently after performing just one pose. Check in with your body, your mind and your heart.
Tadasana with Back Bend
Yoga poses can represent the physical embodiment of every quality of life. When every element of our body is working together to experience a dynamic pose like Tadasana with a backbend, our community of cells is working together to support the whole body. In this pose our bodies teach us how every part of a group works together for the good of the whole. Within us we already possess the wisdom to function more beautifully in the communities we move through in our daily life.
Stand in Tadasana and place your hands on your hips with your elbows pointing behind you. Inhale deeply as your hands assist in rooting your hips toward your feet by pressing downward. Lengthen the spine toward the sky. As you exhale gently press your head back as if it is resting on a pillow and arch your back as you lean backwards. Notice how far back you can go with ease. Visually mark how far you can see along the wall behind you. On your next inhale come back to Tadasana (mountain pose).
Then, complete the following foot stretches. Repeating this pose after stretching the feet perfectly illustrates how opening and releasing one part of our body allows another area to achieve greater expansiveness.
As you balance on your left leg, flex your right foot and rest the heel on the floor. Flex your toes in a ‘ball’ and then open then and extend them apart from each other. As you keep them extended, point your foot. Inhale and flex the foot again. Repeat this pattern two more times. Place your foot down and take a moment to feel the difference in your two feet.
Repeat on the other foot.
Stand in Tadasana and repeat the backward arch that you performed at the beginning. Notice how much farther you were able to bend.
This is an amazing experience of how the state of our feet affects the flexibility of our back, when we may believe these two parts of our body don’t have anything to do with each other. Now that we’ve had a tangible experience of their connection, there are two beautiful lessons to take away from this event. First, our feet serve as our foundation whether we are doing yoga poses or not. Activating and awakening our feet communicates with the rest of our body and its flexibility. The second point is that our body is constantly communicating with itself. The cells in the fascia tissue (the connective tissue surrounding the muscles) are in constant interaction. Ideally, the cells work as a community each with an integral job. When all portions of an entity operate together, like the intelligence within our bodies, the outcome is a masterpiece of grace.
Wide legged forward bend strengthens our connection to the earth as we bow in gratitude to its support. Stand and step your legs wide while pointing your feet forward and parallel to each other. You’ve created a mountain-like shape with your legs. Lift and spread your toes, then place them back down and isometrically pull your legs towards each other while drawing them up towards your hips until you feel the engagement of the inner thighs. Keep this engagement while rooting down into the earth with all four corners of your feet. Reflect on how the strength of your legs provides stability to the entire body.
Bring hands to hips and on an exhalation, bend at your hip creases and place your fingertips on the floor. Imagine the fingertips as roots of a tree and pull upward from your fingers toward your shoulder blades, as if you are pulling nutrients from the earth. Your shoulder blades will move onto your back and your back will straighten. Breathe deeply. Allow the breath to initiate an extension of the spine which will straighten the spine further. This is balanced on the exhalation when you melt the heart a little closer to the earth and your legs. Bend only to an appropriate edge that you feel you could comfortably hold for several breaths.
When you’re ready to come out of the pose, place your hands on your hips, elbows pointed towards the sky. As you inhale float back up to standing. Walk your feet together. Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose) and tune into the sensations present in your body, mind and heart. You may feel more grounded, your mind may be quieter and you might even feel uplifted after taking a moment to thank the earth for its sustenance and care.
Warrior 2 pose: A true warrior must have strength, stamina and focus and the asana Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) cultivates these qualities on and off the mat. Building strength and determination is beneficial when facing issues concerning work and finances, especially with the global economy and increasing unemployment rates under constant media scrutiny. Each day when we enter the world, the first chakra is continuously under attack. It takes a pose like “The Warrior” to face our lives with focus while building and maintaining strength in the 1stchakra to help support our efforts.
Begin with a wide base, as the wider the base the more stable it is. Step your feet as far apart as your arms are wide when they are extended. Rotate your right foot parallel with the edge of your mat. The left foot is perpendicular to the right foot, facing the same direction as your chest. Press the four corners of each foot on the ground and experience the support of the earth offering your body and mind potency and power. As you exhale, surrender to that support. As you inhale lift your arms out to the side and intensely spread your fingers and toes wide, replicating the might of the earth.
As you draw energy toward the core of your pelvis from toes and fingers, feel the engagement of your inner thighs and the shoulder blades on your back. Imagine this engagement is a physical manifestation of your ability to receive money. As you exhale bend your right knee and bring it in line with your ankle. With the legs wide, your thigh can be parallel to the ground. Turn your head to the right, gazing steadily along the line of your shoulders toward your fingers and out into the universe. With a soft jaw, experience the combined support of the strength of your body as you keep your muscles deeply engaged and the reinforcement of the earth under your feet. Imagine the strength of your right thigh is being maintained by earth energy.
To increase the power of the pose rotate your inner thighs back. Hold that rotation while scooping your tailbone downward. You should feel a strong upward lift of the pelvic floor that extends up the spine towards the crown of your head. Maintain this action throughout the pose. Experience this asana as long as you can. It’s normal to start to feel some discomfort as the quad muscles push toward their limit. When you’ve almost reached your edge, receive another deep breath and soften a little deeper into the pose. On your next inhale come up strong.
As you exhale, place your hands on your hips and rotate your feet to the other side. Your left foot will be pointing to the left and the right will be perpendicular to it. Repeat the directions on this side. The second side may feel more challenging because the muscles have been working hard. Keep the breath long and steady to balance the effort of the body. As you inhale, imagine receiving the abundance of the universe through arms and legs. As you exhale imagine offering your own unique contributions back to the world. This is “meditation in motion” which helps to sustain the pose as the mind occupies itself with visualization instead of limiting the body’s ability with negativity. You may also like to repeat your affirmation while standing as a warrior. A warrior spirit enables us to achieve more than we thought possible, even if that means holding a pose longer than we could previously. When we develop on the mat, it confirms to us that we are able to overcome obstacles and progress in all areas of our lives.
Triangle Pose: Stand with the legs wide and rotate the right foot to the right so that the heals are in the same plane (if you are more open in the hips you can line the front foot up with the arch of the left foot). Inhale the arms out to the side. As you keep your legs straight without locking the knees, bend at the right hip crease and reach out to the right. As you keep the right side of your body long, exhale and pinwheel your arms to the right until the right hand touches the ground or the leg if you are tighter in the legs. Feel the grounding from the pelvis down through the legs into the earth as you experience the expansiveness of the heart with the opening of the arms apart. After at least 5 long deep breaths root down from the pelvis and inhale come up out of the pose.
Which sides by pivoting the right foot back parallel to the left and than the left rotates to the left. Repeat on this side. After both sides are complete stand still and feel the effects of the pose. You may feel more connected to the earth and yet a lightness of heart.
Chakra Half-day Retreats
Saturday's 1 - 6 pm
This year, I will be leading a series of seven half-day Chakra Retreats on Saturdays, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Each retreat is unique and will focus on a particular chakra. Participating in all of them will provide a deep understanding of the connections among your body, mind, emotions, and spirit, providing better balance for a healthy, joyful life.
For more information click here.
A Saturday of Peace:
Zen Meditation & Yoga Retreat
April 11th (9am - 5pm)
A Saturday retreat to calm the mind and nurture the body. You will learn and practice Zen and other Meditation techniques, do Hatha and Restorative Yoga, learn and practice The Transformation Method, and partake in Mindful Eating and enjoy the beauty of Nature in the zen garden and walking a meditation labyrinth.
For more information click here.