Standing Up for Standing Poses

Almost every yoga class will contain some standing poses. Some of them are going to be in the top 10 most regularly used poses in all likelihood, and as a result, regular students feel a familiarity with them and feel they know how to 'do' them. As someone who practises Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga my own daily practice always starts with the standing sequence and it's easy therefore to take these poses and their many benefits (and challenges) for granted. Dare I say it, but just as it's possible that at some time or another we have been guilty of driving the car without fully concentrating on the task in hand, it's also possible to do standing poses with the same level of too easy familiarity. This post is a shout out for the standing poses and a plea not to sleepwalk your way through them in class (or your home practice). Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. They work on our foundation, through the feet, the ankles, the legs and the hips, strengthening the muscles, bones and joints over time.
  2. They help our balance, and keeping balance in our lives and maintaining our ability to balance as we age are both vitally important for our wellbeing.
  3. We use our breath to enter, hold and exit the poses, enabling us to fully expand our lungs as we explore finding space in the body.
  4. They enable us to find optimum alignment for our body. The best example is in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, where we learn to feel what good alignment of our skeleton feels like complete with the natural curves of the spine.
  5. They counteract the sense of gravity and any emotional or mental concerns dragging us down. By standing 'up', we automatically become more alert, focused and feel better for it. 

If your teacher is watching he/she will see when you're not paying attention in your standing poses as your body will give the game away. There is no hiding place even in a full yoga room - we can see the back row as well as the front row! If you do find yourself struggling to maintain concentration and energy in the pose, listen to the verbal cues the teacher is giving. You may have heard them many times, but maybe you haven't really listened to them. There are so many different things to work on in each pose that the emphasis and words used may well vary week to week. I can personally testify that sometimes we can hear the same cue loads of times but fail to act on it effectively until one day the teacher says it again and we have that wonderful moment when we 'get' it and feel what they're communicating in our own bodies. It's magic and it feel great!