Stand Tall

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.

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.

Stay Straight

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.

Find Balance

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.

Arm Balance

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.

Go Forth

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.

Jason Crandell teaches yoga classes in San Francisco and workshops around the country.