Veteran yogi and yoga teacher, Jason Crandell, gives insight on how to better achieve standing postures in your practice.
Standing poses are the foundation of many contemporary styles of hatha yoga. They’re accessible, easy to modify, and extremely thorough: They cultivate strength, suppleness, and awareness in your feet, legs, pelvis, torso, shoulders, and arms. They also increase vitality, counteracting the effects of a sedentary life.
Standing poses can provide insight into your restrictions, illuminating areas that feel particularly tight and bound, sensitive and vulnerable, or weak and unstable. When the going gets tough in these poses, you can observe your reactions and habitual responses to difficult situations. While the shapes of the asanas may differ, these tips apply to all standing poses.
See also Open Up to Stand Up Straighter
Wake Up Your Lower Half
The legs are the workhorses of the body. They support, stabilize, and propel you with vitality and ease. Your feet are, by design, beautifully intricate, complex, and responsive. When your legs and feet aren’t taken through their natural range of motion, they become stagnant and dull—imagine a horse never taken out of its stable. Standing poses stretch and strengthen the legs and feet so they function optimally. Working your legs thoroughly also improves circulation, supports digestion, and energizes the entire body.
See also Stand Strong Grounding Sequence
Standing poses increase your awareness of body alignment. You can observe how your feet align with your legs and pelvis, how your arms align with your shoulders and chest, and so on. As you refine this awareness, you cultivate greater physical integration and develop increased physical stability.
Stand Your Ground
Many of us are overworked and overstimulated mentally but out of shape physically. Our bodies are lethargic and dull. Standing poses ask us to focus intensely, yet quietly, on the body. This type of attention soothes the mind, lessening psychological tension and grounding you emotionally.
Standing poses require an even distribution of weight between both legs. You must also root evenly through the front, back, and sides of each foot. When you establish this, you can more easily find your center. This makes it easier to find your balance in other poses, and perhaps even in life.
Different standing poses stretch, align, and strengthen your arms in different ways. When you practice a series of them, you take your shoulders through a range of movements, which increases mobility and releases tension in the upper body.
See also Strong-Arm This Sequence
Since standing poses create stability, suppleness, and awareness in your legs, hips, torso, and shoulders, they are the perfect poses to prepare your body for other asanas.
See also Mind-Body Energy Refresh
San Francisco–based instructor Jason Crandell has 20 years of teaching experience. His classes integrate elements of power yoga, anatomical precision, and mindfulness. Crandell has taught on many teacher-training faculties and leads trainings globally. He is a contributing editor at Yoga Journal, where he has authored more than 25 articles, a podcast series, and four full-length DVDs. Find more of his teachings at jasonyoga.com.