Tadasana: Mountain Pose
The mountain pose is an important basic pose to learn well. It is deceptively simple in that it appears as easy as standing, but it actually requires great concentration because the entire body must be equally balanced. Tada means “mountain,” and sana means “straight,” so tadasana (pronounced tah-DAH-sah-nah) means standing straight like a mountain. As you stand in tadasana, try to feel the firmness and stability of a mountain. The mountain pose benefits your body in many ways. It helps to maintain balance and posture, which leads to internal balance, which leads to good health.
Trikonasana: Triangle, the Happy Pose
Forming triangles with your body will teach it a sense of direction. The basic triangle, or trikonasana (pronounced trih-koh-NAH-sah-nah), is known as the happy pose because it opens your Venus chakra (the energy center located behind your heart) and allows joy to fill your body and radiate within you and from you. Trikonasana tones your spine and waist. It stimulates your bowels and intestines, strengthens your legs and ankles, improves your circulation, and develops your chest. It also strengthens the breath.
Parshvakonasana: Side Angle Stretch
Parshva means “flank” or “side,” and kona means “angle”—hence, parshvakonasana (pronounced par-shvah-KOH-nah-sah-nah) means side angle stretch! This pose tones your legs, strengthens your knees, and lengthens your spine. It relieves back pain and sciatica problems, and stretches and strengthens the hips and stomach. Exhale as you go into this pose, and inhale as you come out; breathe while you hold the pose.
Virabhadrasana: Warrior Pose
It takes the tremendous strength of a warrior to “conquer” inner peace. The warrior pose, or virabhadrasana (pronounced vee-rab-hah-DRAH-sah-nah), fills the body with nobility and strength, calling upon the power and nourishment of the sun while firmly planting the feet upon the earth. Vira means “hero” and bhadra means “auspicious,” so virabhadrasana means “heroic auspicious posture.” Wow! Didn’t you always want to be part yogi and part Conan? We demonstrate three different versions of virabhadrasana here: warrior 1, warrior 2, and warrior 3.
The first warrior pose aids in deep breathing, relieves a stiff neck and shoulders, strengthens the legs, and trims the hips. Be sure to exhale as you go into the warrior pose, and inhale as you go out of the pose. Think “strength” instead of “tense.” Be careful to relax your muscles while in the warrior pose. Keep your face and neck relaxed. Breathe normally. Feel the warrior strength gathering inside you. Strength doesn’t come from muscle contraction. Strength comes from the mind.
The second warrior pose has the same benefits as the first, but it also strengthens and shapes the legs, relieves leg cramps, brings flexibility to the legs and back, tones the abdomen, and strengthens the ankles and arms.
The warrior 3 position develops the strength and shape of your legs and abdomen; it also gives you agility, poise, better concentration, and improved balance. It is a more difficult pose than the first two warrior poses. Be sure to exhale going into all the warrior poses, and inhale coming out.
Utkatasana: Lightning Bolt Pose
The lightning bolt pose, or utkatasana (pronounced oot-kah-TAH-sah-nah), is a powerful pose. Utkatasana means “raised posture.” As you form the shape of a lightning bolt, you are filled with the dynamic energy of lightning. Utkatasana removes shoulder stiffness, strengthens your legs and ankles, lifts your diaphragm, massages your heart, tones your back and stomach, and develops your chest. It also warms up the body.
Vrikshasana: Tree Pose
Vrikshasana (pronounced vrik-SHAH-sah-nah) is one of the most basic balance poses. Vriksha means “tree,” and a tree is soundly rooted in the earth but grows upward with branches reaching out to the sun. Wind may move the branches, but the tree stands firm. Vrikshasana tones the legs, opens the hips, and promotes physical balance. It also develops concentration and mindfulness.
Throughout vrikshasana, keep your breathing steady and regular so it doesn’t interfere with your balance.
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana: Standing Half Bound Lotus Pose
Don’t be frustrated if you have trouble getting into the standing half bound lotus pose. If your hips are not open enough yet and your knee isn’t pointing toward the floor, it’ll be difficult to connect your hand with your foot and could also overstrain your knee. Give yourself time and keep practicing the regular tree pose. Eventually your body will accommodate you.
The eagle is a god in Indian mythology, and so is considered sacred and important. As with the tree pose, garudasana (pronounced gah-roo-DAH-sah-nah) improves balance and concentration as well as develops the ankles and removes stiffness in the shoulders. Symbolically, the eagle represents the life force/prana.
The plank pose develops strength in your arms and legs. It helps to create a balanced and strong body. It is often used as a transition pose, leading or connecting one pose to another.
Vashishthasana: Arm Balance
Vashishthasana (pronounced VAH-shish-THAHsah-nah) is a pose named after the Indian sage Vashishtha. Vashishthasana strengthens the wrists and arms, and tones the lumbar and coccyx regions of the spine. It also develops concentration, nonattachment to either achievement or failure, and an undisturbed, steady mind.
➤ Standing poses like the mountain, triangle, side angle stretch, warrior, and lightning bolt are an important basis for strength and balance.
➤ Posture isn’t just about looking good. It has a profound effect on health and well-being.
➤ Practice the basic standing postures before you progress to more complicated poses.
➤ Balance poses like the tree, eagle, plank, and arm balance create stability and a centered sense of being.
➤ Hatha is finding balance.