When you first see this pose you may think "that's just standing, I can do that!" But when you do it correctly, paying attention to all the parts of your body, you will soon learn that it is not so simple after all! Tadasana (Mountain Pose) may look like "just" standing, but is actually a very powerful and useful exercise in itself. Just like yoga may look like just doing stretches but is actually SUPER AMAZING and will change your life... okay I'll stop now raving now :)
FEET: First things first, traditionally you can stand with feet together but for beginners I recommend feet hip-width apart, just for extra stability. Rock back and forth on your heels/ balls of feet, then settle into the middle ground. Pull up your arches and put your weight so it rests on the outside edges of your feet.
LEGS: Pull "up" in your thighs so you feel your kneecaps rise up your legs and your legs becoming strong and "switched on". Get your buttocks in on the action by clenching them slightly to help bring your pelvis into alignment. Which brings me to...
PELVIS AND HIPS: Practice tilting your hips so your pelvis tilts up and then down, then rest in the middle in correct alignment. To check this, make a triangle with your hands and place it so the palms of your hands rest on your hip bones. When your pelvis is in the right place the thumbs and fingers should be lined up - not one further forward than the other. See:
CORE: Use your core strength to hold your pelvis in alignment - exhale and switch on your core by expelling ALL the air in your belly pulling your navel in towards your spine.
BACK: You want to get rid of any unnecessary (and potentially trouble causing) curvature in your spine. Getting the pelvis into the correct alignment will greatly assist with this, as will "tucking" your ribs in so they get closer to your hip bones.
A good way to practice this is to practice Tadasana against a wall. Start with the feet about three inches away form the wall, then with the butt and tops of the shoulders both resting on the wall see how far you can get your arm through behind your back. Your hand should be able to just get your fingers past the spine - but no further. Tilt your pelvis until this is achieved, and switch on the core to support your back in place. Then practice walking around like this! You may feel stupid but it is a great way to practice and get the feeling of having correct spinal alignment.
Eventually your core will come to the party and start supporting your spine in it's correct position 24/7! Then you will have amazing spinal alignment, not suffer lower back problems and live happily ever after*, amen.
* okay, maybe not this bit... but it will help :)
SHOULDERS/ ARMS: Press your shoulder blades together behind your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Roll them up and down a few times, then release your arms by your side. Make your arms strong by pointing all fingers towards the floor.
HEAD: Balance the top of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor. Imagine a string is running from the top of your head to the ceiling, pulling your whole body up as tall as can be.
Inhale into the chest and exhale from the belly, enjoying the feeling of correct postural alignment, as well as the stability and strength of the pose. Tadasana is a calming pose, designed to give the feeling of being grounded and supported by the earth. In this busy world especially it is easy to feel like we live up in our head, lost in the many thoughts that float around us. It's nice to enjoy the support of the solid earth beneath us. Let your breath calm you and remember this constant support - even when you feel unsupported in the world the earth always has your back! Thanks earth :)
PS. Click to view this image with instructions here on the new Broga flikr group!