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Mountain Pose: The Complete Guide

The basis of all yoga postures, Tadasana is a grounding pose, a place to begin your practice.


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The way in which you enter Mountain Pose (Tadasana) is a powerful way to analyze your state of mind at the beginning of any given practice. The tiny, incremental shifts in this pose reveal whether you are feeling stable and strong, wishy-washy and loose, or distracted and weak. Mountain Pose is a foundational standing pose, and it is often these basic, foundational poses that have the most to teach us.

“I call Mountain Pose the second most advanced posture taught in yoga class,” says Yoga Journal contributor Alexandria Crow. She explains that Tadasana is a “seemingly mundane” posture that we do repetitively, but that the trick with this pose—and all of yoga—is to give deep close attention and make active choices in the moment, instead of thinking, “I’ve got this,” based on past experience.

Abandon perfection and strive for presence, even (and especially) in the most basic of postures. Mountain Pose can be enhanced through a series of tiny adjustments: grounding down more firmly through all four corners of your feet, adjusting your feet so they are pointed straight ahead, softening the knees, and pulling the shoulders down away from the ears, for example. A multitude of tiny adjustments can provide a deeper sense of presence, and a more authentic experience of Tadasana.

If you need help activating your inner thighs in this pose, try squeezing a block between your upper inner thighs to activate the adductors, pelvic floor, and some of your core stabilizers. Remember: Hip stability really helps with your spine!

The point, above all, is to stay active—to stay in it. “Do what’s wise for you in the moment, no matter how different that is from what you did yesterday, or what the person next to you is doing today,” adds Crow.

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Mountain Pose basics

Sanskrit: Tadasana (tah-DAHS-anna)

tada = mountain

asana = seat; posture

Pose type: Standing posture

Targets: full body

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Benefits

Mountain Pose is a grounding foundational posture that improves your postural and body awareness. This pose can also boost your energy and fight fatigue—a trait it shares with other standing poses. If you find yourself spending much of the day in front of a computer, this pose is great for countering the effects of prolonged sitting.

Other Mountain Pose perks:

  • Can help build confidence and empowerment
  • Improves your balance and focus
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Step-by-step instructions

  1. Stand with your big toes touching and a small amount of space between your heels.
  2. Root down with your big toe mounds and pull up with your inner arches.
  3. Press your thigh bones back while gently releasing your tailbone down.
  4. Draw your shoulders back to align with your side body while softening your front ribs toward your frontal hipbones.
  5. Stack the crown of your head above your pelvis with your chin level to the floor.
  6. Press down through the four corners of each foot, and lift up through the length of your body, ascending the crown of your head to the ceiling.
  7. Tadasana can be held for anywhere from several breaths to several minutes.
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Explore the pose

Beginners’ tips

  • Your stance is extremely important. To begin with a balanced Mountain Pose: Place your feet where they naturally fall when you walk forward and leave a few inches between them. Keep your hips and knees facing toward the front of the room. Gently activate your core to keep your stance strong and retain the pose’s integrity, and prevent yourself from locking out your joints.
  • Open your chest as you pull your shoulders down away from your ears—don’t let your shoulders creep up and tighten up.
  • Ask a partner to stand beside you and confirm that your ear hole, the center of your shoulder joint, the center of your outer hip, and your outer ankle bone are in a straight line perpendicular to the floor.
  • Lengthen your neck and set your gaze forward on a fixed point in front of you. Breathe in and out, and let the breath bring you into the practice.

Common mistakes

  • Alexandria Crow, a yoga teacher, advises not to flatten your lumbar spinal curve by tucking your tailbone. This will push your hips forward and prevent you from forming a long line from your feet through the crown of your head. She also says not to roll to the outside edges of your feet or distribute your weight unevenly. This will interfere with the structural stability of every joint above your feet.
  • Your mental state affects your posture. “If you feel fatigued, defeated, or depressed, you might stand in Tadasana with slumped shoulders and a collapsed chest,” explains Ray Long, MD, in Anatomy for Vinyasa Flow and Standing Poses. “Conversely, the form that you create with Tadasana influences your mental state. Bring your feet together and straighten your legs. Draw your shoulders back and down to open your chest. This relaxed yet open position counteracts a defeated and slumped posture in both body and mind.” 

Be mindful!

  • To check your alignment in the pose, stand with the backs of your heels, sacrum, and shoulder blades (but not the back of your head) touching a wall.
  • Check to make sure the knees are directly over the ankles and the hips over the knees.
  • If it helps your balance, stand with your feet three to five inches apart.
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Mountain Pose variations

Even though it may seem like a simple posture, there are multiple variations to Mountain Pose. Whether you are trying to improve your posture or address physical pain, these modifications allow you to experience the pose in a way that supports your body’s specific needs.

Try one of these variations:

Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Props: Jade Yoga and Hugger Mugger

Mountain Pose with feet hip-distance apart

Try with your feet hip distance apart for a more stable base.

Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Props: Jade Yoga and Hugger Mugger

Mountain Pose against a wall

Bring your back to the wall. It’s OK if not all parts of your body touch the wall. You may want to try bringing a block between your shoulder blades for more space and stability.

Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Props: Jade Yoga and Hugger Mugger

Mountain Pose in a chair

Find a comfortable seated position in a chair with your feet directly under your knees, allowing a 90-degree angle or more at your knee joint. If possible, sit forward in the chair to avoid slouching. Lengthen the crown of your head upward to achieve a neutral spine.

If you are taller, consider sitting on a folded blanket. If you are shorter, try placing blocks under your feet to bring the knees in line with your hips. You can also place a pillow behind your back for support.

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Preparatory and counter poses

Tadasana both precedes and follows other standing poses. You can prep for Mountain Pose with forward bends and you can follow Mountain Pose with other standing poses that recreate its balanced sensation and alignment.

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Your body in Mountain Pose | Anatomy

Tadasana is the cornerstone of the standing poses. It is used as a physical barometer, a place of return, between the standing poses. In this pose, you can quietly assess how the body feels after any preceding asana.

In the drawings below, pink muscles are stretching and blue muscles are contracting. The shade of the color represents the force of the stretch and the force of contraction. Darker = stronger.

An anatomy illustration showing how your body works in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
(Illustration: Chris Macivor)

The muscles that keep the pelvis upright are located on both the front and back of the body. At the front of the pelvis is the psoas, and at the back are the glutei or the buttocks muscles. The pelvis is kept balanced because the psoas flexes the thigh, and the glutei make the thigh lengthen or extend. These two muscles balance one another.

If your legs tend to turn outward, the tensor fascia lata and the front part of the gluteus medius muscles at the front and highest points of the hip bones work to turn them inward.

The quadriceps muscles shorten to straighten your knees. Meanwhile, the calf muscles are working quietly to balance your ankles on your feet, which are the foundation of the pose. All this time, the muscles on the top and bottom of the feet balance each other, grounding the pose.

The erector spinae, which are deep back muscles, extend from the skull to the base of the spine and work with the muscles in the small of the back to lift the spine and hold you upright. The abdominal muscles running down the front of the body work with the back muscles to support and balance the torso. Together they draw your ribs downward.

The lower part of the trapezius, which spans the back, draws your shoulders down and away from your ears, lifting your chest, while the rhomboids, which connect the shoulder blades to the spine, work with the mid-portion of the trapezius to draw the shoulder blades toward the midline to open the front of your chest.

Excerpted with permission from The Key Poses of Yoga and Anatomy for Vinyasa Flow and Standing Poses by Ray Long.

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Put Mountain Pose into practice

Mountain Pose is the basis of all yoga postures, so spend time grounding and aligning this posture from the ground up, and try to maintain the elements of engagement and alignment of Mountain Pose in all of your poses throughout your flow. Here are a few sequences to try:


About our contributors

Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.

Ray Long is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a popular series of yoga anatomy books, and the Daily Bandha, which provides tips and techniques for teaching and practicing safe alignment. Ray graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and pursued post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over 20 years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters, and teaches anatomy workshops at yoga studios around the country.