Teaching Yoga

Alignment Cues Decoded: “Tadasana Is the Blueprint Pose”

Teachers' teacher Alexandria Crow explains why she wholeheartedly endorses this yoga cliche—now that she gets it.

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Alexandria Crow explains why she wholeheartedly endorses this yoga cliché—now that she gets it.

I’d heard teachers say, “Tadasana is the blueprint pose” a million and one times before I completely understood what that meant. In fact, it wasn’t until long after I had graduated from teacher training that I completely grasped the concept and what I should to be looking for as a teacher in Tadasana.

See alsoAlexandria Crow: “Yoga Teacher Training Changed My Life”

Tadasana Is Everything

I teach mostly higher level classes and train teachers so you may think that I rarely dig into the nitty-gritty of Tadasana. It’s a super simple beginner’s pose, right? For me, however, it is so fundamental that I couldn’t imagine leaving it out of a single class, regardless of level. In any class my real job is to get students to pay attention to the moment. And let’s face it, most moments in our lives are more Tadasana than Tittibhasana. That is to say, repetitive and devoid of obvious fireworks. But yoga can teach us to see the beauty in simplicity.

“Let’s face it, most moments in our lives are more Tadasana than Tittibhasana. That is to say, repetitive and devoid of obvious fireworks. But yoga can teach us to see the beauty in simplicity.”

Tadasana is the perfect pose to teach each moment’s worthiness, no matter the story in your mind (“It’s too simple,” “This is boring,” “I’ve already got it”). I want my students to experience even the most mundane and repetitive poses—and moments—as new. Everything is always changing. No matter how simple the pose and no matter how many times you’ve done it before, you’ll miss THIS time if you’re not present.

See also Alignment Cues Decoded: “Root to Rise”

Trail Running Tadasana Mountain Pose

Challenge Pose: Tadasana

Tadasana is not how students arrive in class or how you stand on line at the grocery store. The work in Mountain Pose is bringing your skeleton with its unique attributes into neutral alignment. Thus it becomes the starting point, or blueprint, for all other asana. We don’t wander around in neutral alignment because it requires a lot of effort. That’s because the way we do wander around, sit in chairs, and look at smartphones creates imbalances that need correcting. We all have tight muscles some places and a lack of stability others, making neutrality elusive.

For example, a student who hunches over a computer all day, lets their shoulders roll forward and upper back round can weaken the back muscles, weaken the shoulders’ external rotators, and create an excessive thoracic curve. When that student gets to class and begins to find Tadasana, hip, pelvic, and core stability in the pose establish a strong foundation for realigning the imbalances. The student can then use muscular effort to find the neutral position of the upper back and shoulders.

See also Maty Ezraty on “Tadasana” Versus “Samasthiti”

Nov 14 Home Practice Urdhva Hastasana Upward Salute

Every Pose Is a Variation of Tadasana

Tadasana is the starting place from which all other asana is born. Once you know Tadasana’s efforts in your body, all other asana becomes simply one—or many—intentional shifts in specific joints or body parts away from Tadasana, while the other areas of the body maintain its neutrality. A simple example: Urdhva Hastasana is simply Tadasana plus 180 degrees of shoulder flexion and cervical spine extension, or arms overhead and looking up. Nothing else about Tadasana and its efforts has changed. Any pose can be dissected in this way.

See also Alignment Cues Decoded: “Straighten Your Elbows”

Tadasana Is The Key to Teaching Asana

If Tadasana is taught well, students learn where and how much effort they need to use to maintain neutral positioning as they approach more complex asana. That said, even when Tadasana is taught well, as soon as students move to a more challenging pose, their preexisting physical challenges tend to reappear.

The student with the rounded upper back and hunched shoulders, who is challenged finding neutral in Tadasana, will likely revert back to that habitual alignment when asked to raise arms overhead if not clearly cued. If the muscles are weak and tight, the pose will end up looking all crunched up and miserable and probably feel that as well. Thus the blueprint of Tadasana is lost.

“Tadasana is not how students arrive in class or how you stand on line at the grocery store.”

That student needs to know that as the arms go up, they’ll want to revert back to their usual internal rotation and the upper back will want to round. But the work is here the same as in Tadasana, to not let them. The student’s job is to pay attention and stop short of the final posture when these habits show up. Therefore that student’s Urdhva Hastasana in Tadasana may have the arms a bit forward of the head or a bit wider than the shoulders, and maybe not looking up. But by holding Tadasana’s efforts while stressing the structure by moving the arms overhead, the shoulders will change and become more flexible and strong.

This is hard work. There’s no doubt. But it leads to positive growth and change—physically, of course, but also beyond. By handing students this asana blueprint, they have the guide and must learn to pay very close attention to what their body is able to do wisely in each moment to follow it.

See also Patanjali Never Said Practice Is Optional


Alexandria Crow

Alexandria Crow yoga teacher

The practice of yoga has taught Alexandria Crow how to approach life with open eyes and a fearless attitude–a discovery she hopes to pass onto her students. She guides them step by step through creative sequences providing all of the components needed for individual success. By teaching not only alignment but also how to pay attention to what is going on in the body and mind in each moment, Alex teaches her students how to bring greater awareness to everything they do.

Catch up with her on:
Twitter: @AlexandriaCrow
Instagram: @alexandriacrowyoga
Facebook: @alexandria.crow