Change Your Mountain Pose

Sometimes a little shift can make a big difference in how things feel. Sage Rountree explores what happens when you shake up a traditional asana.

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Sometimes a little shift can make a big difference in how things feel. Such is the case when you lift to the balls of the feet in Utthita Tadasana (Tall Mountain Pose). Suddenly, a position that felt expansive and grounded can feel wobbly and unstable. Learning how to stay steady in this version of the familiar pose—heels and arms lifted—will help you develop core stability, foot strength, and spatial awareness, all of which translate directly to your asana practice and to your sport. It also echoes the dynamic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis that helps us develop and grow. As you practice adapting to change, you’ll get the chance to come back to good, neutral form and practice equanimity in the face of changing circumstance. Include this move as part of your home practice, as well as in your dynamic warmup pre-workout.

Start with a Steady Mountain

Start by setting up a level, stable Mountain Pose: place your feet where they’d land when you walk or run, with a few inches’ space between them. Toes, knees, and hips all face forward. Find a neutral alignment of your pelvis, lightly engage your deep abdominals, and tuck your lower ribs in. Keep your chest broad as you relax your shoulders. Lengthen your neck and set your gaze forward. Breathe.


Now, disrupt your stability. First, raise both arms overhead, and notice how the feeling shifts. Reset your pelvis, spine, and shoulders to find the lines of Tadasana. Next, lift your heels. Maybe they rise just a half inch; maybe you lift to the balls of the feet. Don’t be surprised if you need to take a few mincing steps forward or back. Notice how such a small movement in space can have such a large change on your balance.

Find a New Normal

Finally, come to a new stability as you balance on the balls of your feet. Spread your toes and feel their connection to the ground. Level your pelvis. Hug your belly and lower ribs in. Broaden your chest and relax your shoulders. Steady your gaze and even out your breath to help balance yourself. After taking a few breaths lifted, return your heels to the ground and relax your arms by your sides. Notice what has been working, keeping awareness of your feet, your deep core muscles, and the position of your body in space as you move into your next pose or into your workout.

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