AN ENCOUNTER WITH TADASANA:
TALL MOUNTAIN POSE
You’re at Yoga, standing aligned: hips over knees, knees over ankles. Shoulders over hips. Breathing freely.
Inhale: chest expands and arms hang loosely by your sides. Exhale: press the feet down into the floor. Sense the deep solid earth beneath.
Ready for Tall Mountain Pose, Tadasana.
Inhale and turn the palms forward like buds welcoming the sun. Spread the fingers and stretch the hands as you elevate the arms to hip height. Immediately you will notice a dance of muscle and tissue come alive all the way upward through your arms.
Pause at hip-height and breathe freely, arms stretched, shoulder blades moving gently downwards. Press the feet into the ground and witness the cave at your heart quietly open.
Then on an exhale, float the arms back down.
Take a new inhalation and breathe the arms out to the sides (or are they breathing themselves?) hands again wide open and stretched, two starfish, two stars. Pause just below shoulder height and breathe freely.
Notice the lungs open and respond. Hear the sound of a spontaneous deep inhalation, born deep inside. Pause, reach and breathe.
Then again gently float your arms back down on an exhalation. Hands trail like seaweed. Pause, breath held out, in stillness.
Another big inhale and this time take the arms out to shoulder height. Each arm reaches a great distance from the other; one to the east, one to the west, magnetised by opposite poles.
Palms face forwards, arms like signposts.
Breathe here. Then float back down.
Press feet into ground as arms continue their trajectory upwards. The pressing down of the feet ricochets strength up both legs. The firm, strong and grounded lower body stabilises the light, soaring, fluid upper body.
Arms reach ear-level, pause here. Chest lifts, ribs expand and abdomen lengthens, the roundness of the navel becoming diamond-shaped.
Pause and breathe. Then float the arms back down.
Again breathe in: stretch, reach and raise.
Finally, at the peak of inhalation, arms overhead, fingers interlace and indexes point to make a steeple. Thumbs cross, closing the doorway to the temple.
You are inside. Inside the temple. Breathing.
Feet spread firmly on the flagstones.
While you stand aligned and stretched, arms reaching north, lower body reaching south, you breathe freely and notice a line of minor temples below the steeple.
IN THE TEMPLE
The eyes are two ancient meditation caves; the mouth the doorway between inner and outer worlds.
There is a full space of joy at the heart and a laughing stretched diamond at the navel; a prayer at the pelvic floor, soft kindness at the knees and the feet, pressing firmly down, sprout roots like an ancient temple tree.
Here you are at Yoga. Here you are in a timeless world.
You sustain the stretch and lose all sense of space, time and identity.
The final descent from the mountain: hands turn and separate, the first gasp of exhalation clearly audible. Palms float down, hips shout their support, chest stays triumphantly open.
You are back in the aligned standing position but you are not the same.
Hips over knees, knees over ankles and shoulders over hips. Mind has found an inner sanctuary and the body an effortless alignment, from giving the spine the chance to lengthen and soar.
Tall Mountain pose has briefly and beautifully changed your world.
Shakti Burke is still discovering more and more about yoga after thirty years of delighted practice.
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