“People do not pay attention to the correct method of standing.”
Iyengar points out, rightly, that we all have a tendency not to stand upright. We shift our weight from foot to foot, we throw our hip out to one side, we lean back on our heels and slump. These tendencies make their mark on our soles – our shoe soles, that is. Just take a look at the bottom of your shoes and you’ll find worn down areas where you’ve shifted the weight of your body day after day. My soles are so dramatically worn out on the outside of the heels that an investigator might assume a duck or a bow-legged cowboy owned every pair of shoes in my closet. These types of irregularities in our posture have negative effects throughout our bodies.
Practicing Tadasana (Mountain Pose) helps us to realign by encouraging us to stand upright and firm like a mountain. Tadasana is the first pose outlined in Light on Yoga. It is also considered the easiest: 1* on Iyengar’s 60* scale of difficulty, 60* being the most difficult and intense asanas. And yet, as I made my way into this familiar pose today, I noticed that I’m already having trouble following Iyengar’s instructions verbatim.
Iyengar’s first instruction is to “Stand erect with the feet together, the heels and big toes touching each other.” For me, standing with my toes and heels touching compromises my balance and my ability to contract my hips and draw my pelvis directly on top of my femur bones. I choose to widen my feet slightly in Tadasana in order to achieve the sensation of my bones stacking evenly on top of each other. Iyengar seems to anticipate this as a common adjustment for the practitioner when he mentions that, “Even if the feet are kept apart, it is better to keep the heel and toe in a line parallel to the median plane and not at an angle. By this method, the hips are contracted, the abdomen is pulled in and the chest is brought forward.”
Standing in Tadasana, I feel the lightness of body and agility of mind Iyengar describes as the central effect of the pose. It’s incredible that something as simple as standing tall can so fully illustrate the unbreakable link between the body and the mind. “If we stand with the body weight thrown only on the heels,” Iyengar says, “we feel the gravity changing; the hips become loose, the abdomen protrudes, the body hangs back and the spine feels the strain and consequently we soon feel fatigued and the mind becomes dull. It is therefore essential to master the art of standing correctly.” In other words, stand tall and open your eyes, because this practice is going to require plenty of concentration.