So humankind stands with its feet planted squarely on the earth, as in Tadasana (mountain pose), and its head in the sky.
BKS Iyengar, Light on Life
Here is a 5-minute exploration of earth and sky in Tadasana. Follow these instructions, or if you prefer, listen to the audio version.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Click below to begin the audio instruction or set a timer for 5 minutes.
Stand with your feet parallel, the center of your heels in line with the center of your sitting bones and the toes pointing straight ahead.
Bring your attention to your breath.
Now, bringing your awareness to your feet, lift your toes and broaden across the ball mounds of your feet from big toe mound to little toe mound. Replace the toes back down to the floor.
Notice where the weight is on your feet. Gently rock back and forth on your feet 2 or 3 times and find the balance point between front and back of your foot, where the centre of gravity releases down toward the front part of your heel. As you find this place of balance, feel the weight of your legs releasing down into your feet. Feel your feet supported by the earth beneath you.
Keeping the weight of the body releasing down through the front of your heels, press down evenly through the four corners of your feet. Balance the weight between the big toe mound and the inner heel. Then the base of the little toe and the outer heel.
When you feel that these four corners are weighted evenly on the floor, lift the arches of your feet in a way that lifts the inner ankle bones without over-gripping the sole of the foot. Notice if you are clenching your toes and if so, extend them forward from the base of the toes through the tips.
Continue to draw the energy of the legs up from the earth beneath you into soles of the feet and up through the lower legs.
Pull the kneecaps up toward the thighs, firm the thigh muscles onto the bones. Feel your legs embodying the steadiness of the earth.
Using that action of the legs take the tops of the thighs back and deepen your groins, where the legs meet the pelvis.
Keeping that action in the thighs, contract the hamstrings and your outer hips to draw the tailbone in and tone your low belly. Notice your breath and release it if necessary.
Lengthen from your tailbone down through your heels, firmly planting the legs and pelvis into the earth beneath you.
From the tone of the low belly, stretch the torso away from the pelvis, and extend the spine upward. Expand the breath and stretch the sides of the rib cage up as well as the front and the back of the rib cage. Broaden across the collarbones widening from the top of the sternum out through the arms. Lift and open the chest freely like the sky.
Take the tops of the arms back and feel your shoulder blades connect firmly onto your back, supporting this inner lift. Without losing the inner lift, stretch down into your fingertips. Feel the back of the body and the front of the torso extending up evenly from pelvis through the shoulders.
If you feel the mid-back shortening, release the front of your ribcage down toward your navel and gently lift the back of the diaphragm with your breath.
Allow the whole torso to expand and become more spacious with your breath.
Lengthen the back of your neck up , feeling the throat soft and open.
Gently adjust your head until you find a position where the skull feels effortlessly balanced on top of your spine. Soften your gaze and return your awareness to your breathing.
As you stand quietly, feel the two-way vertical extension of the body – the legs and pelvis firmly planted into the earth, the spine, torso and chest spacious, open and free like the sky.
As the timer goes off, exhale and gently release.