where yoga begins
In tadasana, we find our perfect alignment, activate in a smart way all the muscles in our body, and lengthen with each inhalation and exhalation. Mountain pose can be practiced in between standing poses as a transition asana and is usually practiced at the beginning. I will go into great detail, so feel free to practice each action individually first before combining them all together.
Stand on a solid ground with no inclinations whatsoever. Feet beneath your hips, parallel as if you were skiing. Begin by looking at your feet, bringing you awareness to the feeling of the ground. Lean into one leg, then the other. Move forward with a straight body and then back slightly to your heels without falling backward. Move slowly and find the center. Your weight should rest equally on all four corners of each foot.
Lift all your toes in a flex motion, feeling an equal amount of weight between the pinky and big toe mounds. Lengthen your toes and slowly place them extended on the ground. In time, you will want to grip the floor with the pinky and big toe while extending the three middle toes up and to the air. (When you succeed for the first time, you will be so happy!) Bend your knees slightly while straightening your legs. We never, ever want to hyperextend the joints, especially not the knee and elbow joints, which are the most common to hyperextend. So, lift the knee cap up, hug the muscles of your thighs into the upper leg bone but slightly bend the knees (just two millimeters is enough).
Practice these one by one, and rest once in a while then continue with more alignment information. To protect the knees and to be in correct alignment, always make sure your knees, toes, and hips face the same direction. Move your hips forward while leaning back with your chest; then, move backward and fall forward with your chest (just enough to feel the movement in the hips). Return to neutral.
Neutral is the key, so make sure your hips don't tilt forward or backward in mountain pose. Use a mirror and then write down what you notice. If your hip region were a soup bowl, would it spill forward, backward, or be stable?
Moving upward, create space between the ribs and hips. Lower your belly in and up slightly, breast bone slightly up, staying soft at the front ribs. Shoulders move up, back, and down; palms face forward; hands remain straight and close to the body. Extend your fingers equally, feeling the stretch of the skin in the forearm region. Push the shoulder blades forward, toward the chest, but resist this at the same time by pushing your chest back. Now, create space between the head and the back.
Bonus alignment tip for the more advanced: push the inner ankles away from each other, resisting this by pulling the legs in. As you advance, slowly bring your feet together so your heels and big toe mounds are touching. Always start from the base, in this case the feet. Make sure the weight is equal on all four corners: knees above ankles, hips above knees, shoulders above hips, and ears above shoulders. Go slow and enjoy the process. It is very rewarding to find this amazing alignment in the posture. Release and let go of unnecessary tension. If you feel uncomfortable somewhere, just breathe to it, sense it, and release some tension.
Only your body can tell you what it needs, and you can listen by observing without judgment. Let your breath flow equally to all parts of your body. Look to one place in front of you to help the balance or maybe close your eyes to go deeper and just enjoy the stillness, forgetting completely about the alignment.
Be a mountain. Tadasana.