Its only when I was learning how to do headstands that I realized how difficult it must have been for us to learn how to stand up straight on our legs! When I am doing my headstand I can not think of anything else but my breathing, constantly focusing on my core, my legs, my eye movements, and pose correcting to make sure I don’t fall. What we don’t realize after 20+ years of standing straight is that “Tadasana” standing up is actually a balance pose and form matters.
We forget how to “consciously” stand. We forget to take note of excessive pressures we put on our lungs, stomach, hips, knees and ankles. To the extent that we don’t stop to wonder why we get tired within 5min of standing when actually with our years of practice, we should be able to stand straight for hours!
Ever wondered – why slouching, bending forward is the default position for most people? Lifting heavy bags, working on our laptops, reading, writing and reaching out towards things we like, makes our back move forward. It’s of course a little painful in the beginning but we take it as part of the Job. Soon we become used to to the pain and make it a default position. But its not the body’s default position. Our blood flow is unable to adjust to the slouch and gets clogged. Our lungs can’t function when they are constantly compressed.
We need to rebel against what we have done to our bodies. We NEED to consciously do counter poses – back bends and side bends to make the back flexible and return it to its default position. Whenever you feel like you have been sitting for too long do a counter pose. Take a deep breath, exhale and bend your back backward. Give it a sideways twist for fun! Whenever it hurts to stand for any longer, do a counter pose. Move your weight to front and back of your toes till you feel you are balancing it equally on the foot. Take a deep breath, exhale and bend you back backwards. Give it a sideways twist for fun! Inhale. Exhale.
After a long time, I opened my yoga book “Light on Yoga” yesterday and instead of going over the details of tricky inversions poses, I flipped to the very first asana, Tadasana, the Mountain Pose. Its the first basic pose in the book, but the writer took five steps to describe the art of standing up strong, straight and unmoved.
- You start with Standing erect with the feet together, the heels and big toes touching each other, rest the heads of metatarsals on the floor and stretch all the toes flat on the floor.
- Tighten the knees and pull the knee-caps up, contract the hips and pull up the muscles at the back of the thighs.
- Keep the stomach in, chest forward, spine stretched up and the neck straight.
- Do not bear the weight of the body either on the heels or the toes, but distribute it evenly on both of them.
- Ideally in Tadasana, the arms are stretched out over the head, but for the sake of convenience, one can place them by the side of the thighs.
As I finished reading, I realized how bad my standing pose is usually.
These days, I don’t spend more than 30 minutes standing up. I am usually sitting, walking, sleeping or just moving around, but when I do stand I end up standing lousily (in my head its stylish and flattering) with weight set on one leg, and the other leg slightly ahead at an angle. It looks good in pictures and I feel relaxed with on leg resting. But unintuitively, the effects it has on my body are absolutely contrary. Not distributing weight across the feet of the ground, not standing straight with the hips tightened, abdomen pulled in and chest forward, puts excess pressure on the spinal cord, causing heaviness in the head, fatigue and knee problems. Come to think of it, I can not stand straight in my current usual pose for more than 5-10min and have to sit down.
Since reading that chapter, I have started to follow a five step approach to fix my stance, whenever I can remember it. Point the toes straight ahead, distribute body weight equally on toes and heels, tighten the thighs, pull in the abdomen and straighten the chest. You have to play around with the movement in the beginning till you can feel the balance and lightness in the head. But once you do, you will feel more alert and in connection with the entire body, head to toe.
Cheers To..Learning back the art of standing straight as we did when we first stood up as a kid.