Body, Mind And Spirit
Mountain pose is a standing pose and starting pose for many other poses commonly practiced in yoga sessions. You are standing strong and tall as the name suggests, unwavering and focused in the present. It represents a strong foundation, and is full of power and meaning when taken and used to stabilize not only your physical body but also your mind and spirit. You may find yourself at first swaying a bit, or slightly moving back and forth. Given time, focus and a few cues, though, you will discover the mountain within, and be able to access this place of peace at any given time. Mountains are sure, and cannot be easily moved.
This pose has many physical benefits, including improved posture, strengthening in the thighs, knees and ankles, as well as firming the abdomen and buttocks. It has the power to relieve sciatica pain, and reduces flat feet which lead to many other lower body issues. When the eyes are focused on one spot (drishti) while in mountain pose — gazing with a gentle calm face and observing the breath with deep attention — mountain pose becomes a standing meditation. Finding the inner mountain in this sense as well as the physical sense is a gift greatly appreciated by the body in ways you may never realize. In fact, any and all of the poses in yoga are gifts we can give our bodies, minds and spirits every time we practice. The nervous system, blood, lymph and all the fluid systems, the cellular system, organs, tendons and ligaments, bones and of course muscles all benefit from a regular yoga practice, at any level.
To come to mountain pose, find yourself standing as you begin to notice your posture (with or without a mirror). Observe the distance between your feet and the direction of the toes. Looking at the toes see if they are contracted as you feel where most of the weight is held. The heel? The big toe ball mound? The edges of the feet? And simply make a mental note of it.
Now, purposefully place the feet hip width apart (about 2 fists width), and bring the edges of each foot parallel to each other. Begin to shift the weight forward and back, as well as rocking around on both feet, bringing the weight to the heel, big toe mound, pinky mound. After five to as many as 10 breaths, slow the movement down to settling into feet with balance between all three areas. Lift and spread the toes and place them back down again. Begin visualizing the line of energy coming up from the earth into the feet as we journey up into our own mountain pose.
Bring that energy up into the inner ankles, lifting them firm up the thighs and gently contracting them without hardening your lower belly. Gently pull the whole belly in (notice perhaps a slight rounding of the upper back and shoulders) and slightly drop your tail bone towards the floor, which will automatically lift the front hip points. With your arms gently engaged by your side, palms facing comfortably forward, press the shoulder blades together while lifting the sternum and relaxing the shoulders away from the ears. Keep visualizing this line of energy coming up from the well-established foundation of the feet and legs, and lengthen the whole spine, which lengthens the neck and centers the head. Check back in with the shoulders and relax them again away from the ears. If someone is nearby, have them check the alignment by looking to see if the earhole lines up directly over the shoulder, hip, knee and ankle.
Gaze ahead 8-10 feet at a spot with a calm face, and bring your attention to the energy line coming up from the base through the crown of the head to the heavens. Take the time to do the “scan” of energy, perhaps refining and enlivening elements of the pose along the way. Be sure to breathe and stay connected to the sensations, and listen to the difference between an edge of comfortable discomfort and a sensation of pain you know you shouldn’t move into. You can move into an “edge” of sensation with a mindful breath, and find that is exactly where the work is done and the freedom is won.
Dianne Saywell works full time as a dental hygienist at a local dental office educating and helping patients maintain their oral health. She also spends her time introducing people to and sharing the healing power of YOGA and the health it brings to the body, mind and spirit. She offers group classes and private sessions at all levels, contact her at [email protected].