Standing at the front of the mat in Tadasana, which translates from Sanskrit as mountain pose, is the foundation of the asana yoga practice. Tadasana is also called Samasthiti, which translates as equal standing. For me the art of standing correctly starts with tadasana.
What is equal standing? Standing correctly, which might be our most difficult physical act, balances all of the energetic forces of the body; front, back, side-to-side, and top and bottom. There is skeletal alignment and muscular alignment; disharmony in one creates disharmony in the other. Most people stand and move in a way that forces the muscles to do way to much work and the bones to be pulled out of alignment. Finding alignment helps us to find tadasana in yoga and our lives.
Here is an easy example of what muscular and skeletal balance is in the body. Hold up your hand and take a side view of your palm. Let your hand go limp. You can see and feel the quality of both the muscles and the bones. Everything is relaxed and soft. Now open your hand as much as you can. Feel the difference. Here you are probably hyper-extending the bones of the fingers. Hyperextension, movement that goes beyond the normal healthy boundaries of the joint, is a classic misalignment of the knee that occurs in both standing and walking. The muscles of the hands are also probably imbalanced with the front of the palm and fingers working overtime. Now find the middle ground. Straighten your fingers evenly and feel what happens. That’s tadasana!
There should be an even balance between the muscles of the front of the palm and fingers and the back of the palm and fingers. Looking sideways at the bones, everything should look stacked atop one another evenly. This is a microcosm of our body’s posture. Standing correctly is about finding this sense of equal balance everywhere we go.
Stand up, find tadasana, and feel how your body aligns in space. Do you have to work to hold your self up? If your bones are aligned your muscles will have very little work to do and standing correctly will be easy. The bones should stack one on top of the other allowing energy and weight to transfer through them. Where are your thighs, under the pelvis or forward of it? How about the shins, do they create a right angle with the floor or do they seem opened to 100°? What about the head? Are all the bones below lined up to support the rather large and heavy head?
It can be helpful to feel what you do sometimes before you begin to fix things. Spend some time doing your asana practice and even check in with the body as you walk around. Start to try and feel your imbalances and patterns.