I am an educator by training and trade, and as such, I am an advocate of gaining solid and simple background and grounding before moving on to more complex subjects. You can’t fully understand the Romans without a background in the Greeks; you won’t truly grasp the motives of Henry VIII without knowledge of the Protestant Reformation; and you can’t study Postmodernism without hitting Modernism (can you guess which subject I teach?). In my opinion, the same kind of grounding is necessary in yoga. Some poses are prerequisites to others and require a solid grounding in simple movements and alignments. And when it comes to grounding, what better pose is there than Mountain Pose?
Some people may retreat to Downward Facing Dog or Child’s Pose after a challenging sequence, but for me, nothing beats Mountain. Mountain Pose offers an opportunity to recenter, to check in with my body, and to notice the subtle changes the previous sequence may have caused. In Mountain, I can feel the strength of my feet and legs, notice the movement of my breath, and slow down enough to feel my blood pumping through my limbs. It’s more than “just standing there,” are some of my more impatient students like to say (they’re young; they’ll learn); it’s a chance to practice grounding and to notice subtlety. And for young or beginning practitioners, Mountain is a place to find comfort and reliability, to feel as if you’re doing a pose “just right.”
Getting Into Mountain:
Stand at the top of your mat with your feet parallel, touching slightly (although some variations call for the feet to be hip distance apart). Spread your toes, lay them back on the mat, and make sure your weight is distributed evenly across your feet.
Engage your quadriceps. While your knee joints should be firm and extended, make sure your knees are not locked (passing out is bad). Take the time to make sure your hips are balanced over your knees, and your knees over your ankles. In essence, you want to imagine a line of energy moving in a straight line from your feet straight up through the crown of your head.
Your arms can hang gently by your sides, palms facing either out front, or in towards your legs. You could also take the Samasthiti variation, in which you place your hands in prayer pose at your heart (this is my favorite variation, almost a standing meditation). Your head should balance gently on your spine, keeping that straight line of energy in mind. Think about rooting this energy down to create a stable base for the rest of your practice. Find your center and breathe.
Once you’ve established Mountain Pose, you can move into any pose that strikes your fancy. Personally, I enjoy starting with a simple sequence that moves between Tadasana and Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) to wake up my legs. Of course, the choice is yours. Just take the time to get grounded before you get going.
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff