Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain pose, known as tadasana in Sanskrit, is an accessible standing balance that is, essentially, just standing in place. The pose is the starting position for practically every standing posture. While it is an excellent (and necessary) transition into poses like tree pose (vrksasana) and triangle pose (trikonasana), the pose stands on its own as a surprisingly challenging chest opener and arm strengthener, given its simplicity.
Probably the most understated of all the postures, mountain pose cultivates physical and mental balance. It is also a spinal extension that lengthens the muscles of the back and abdomen as it strengthens the shoulders and arms. Since it is the starting position for sun salutation (surya namaskara), you’ll find yourself coming back again and again to the simple, powerful action of mountain pose.
- Step to the top of the mat. Bring the toes of your feet together, heels slightly apart, or plant your feet hip distance apart. Spread your body weight evenly between the two feet.
- Ground through your feet by pressing the four corners of each foot – the right side of your heel, the left side of your heel, the sole of your foot below your big toe, the sole of your foot below your little toe – into the mat.
- Spread your toes as wide as you can. Press all five toes firmly into the mat. Your toes indicate whether or not your weight is spread evenly in the front and back of your feet. If they grip the mat, your weight is too far forward. If they lift off the mat, your weight is too far backward.
- Scoop your tailbone towards your belly button. Maintain this pelvic tilt throughout the pose to protect your lower spine. This action also engages your oblique and lower back muscles.
- Internally rotate your upper legs by drawing the tops of your thighs toward each other. This action engages the inner hamstring and quadricep muscles.
- If you’re moving from mountain pose into another posture, keep you arms relaxed by your sides. Otherwise, inhale and sweep your arms above your head. Keep them raised parallel to your ears.
- With your arms raised above your head, exhale. To keep your shoulders from inching up, pressing the bottom corners of your shoulder blades toward your heart center actively. If your shoulders and arms allow, interlace your finger and turn your palms upward or bring your palms together in prayer pose (anjali mudra) above your head.
- Inhale. Following the movement of your arms, extend your spine upward by straightening and lengthening your back vertically. This spinal extension will engage your back and core muscles and help develop good standing posture.
- Exhale. Tilt your head back gently and look upward, toward your palms.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Exhale and sweep your arms down. Relax them by your side.
Tips, Photos and Videos for Beginners
Modifications and Props
For unsteady balance, widen your legs or arms… If you’re having trouble keeping your balance in mountain pose, widen your legs or arms. Stand with your feet hip distance apart in step one (above) or, in step seven, lift your arms above your head, but instead of drawing them toward your ears, extend them outward to form a “Y” shape.
…or do the pose on your back. Likewise, doing the pose supine on the mat lets you focus on the pelvic tilt, the internal rotation of the hips, and the spinal extension instead of focusing on keeping your balance. Lying supine on the mat, go through steps four through eleven (above). Keep your feet flexed throughout.
Measure your vertical alignment against the wall. To perfect the pelvic tilt, the internal rotation of the hips, and the spinal extension, practice mountain pose against a wall. Your heels, sacrum, and shoulder blades should be against the wall. The back of your head should not.
Swaying Palm Tree Pose (Tiryaka Tadasana). In Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s yoga guides, mountain pose is also called palm tree pose. Swaying palm tree pose is a variation of mountain pose that stretches the sides of the body. In step one (above), plant your feet hip distance apart. In step seven, interlock your fingers over your head and turn your palms upward. Skip step nine. Instead, exhale and bend to the right. Keep your vertical alignment (try the pose against a wall if necessary). Breath and hold the pose. Inhale and come back to the center. Exhale and bend to the left. Breath and hold the pose. Inhale and come back to the center. Release your arms to your sides.
Mountain pose brings physical and mental balance to the body. By gently strengthening the muscles of the legs, shoulders, and arms, mountain pose builds the stability essential for poise in more challenging balancing postures. Since it is not physically demanding for most practitioners, mountain pose is also a chance to relax the mind and re-energize during practice.
Similar to the seated posture staff pose (dandasana), mountain pose “draws energy” from the mat to prepare the body, mentally, for difficult poses. To energize in mountain pose, imagine prana – the body’s energy – flowing from your feet and legs, up your inner thighs, into the muladhara or “root” chakra in the groin, through the five chakras in the torso, neck and, head, and out through the sahasrara or “crown” chakra in the crown of the head.
Particularly when paired with a meditation on the flow of prana, mountain pose is an incredibly energizing posture. It’s great for morning flows and power yoga, but practitioners may have trouble sleeping directly after practicing mountain pose.
According to Saraswati, mountain pose loosens the vertebrae and, therefore, clears up “congestion” of the spinal nerves where they extend from the vertebrae into the rest of the body. Sarawati also, however, claims that mountain pose can make you taller, so take his claims about the pose’s effect on the nervous system with a grain of salt.
Anyone who can stand can practice mountain pose, but do not attempt to raise your arms above your head if you:
- have a shoulder injury.
- have vertigo.
Mountain pose establishes the vertical alignment that is key to all standing poses and, in particular, to standing balances. To find success in postures like tree pose, eagle pose (garudasana), and raised hand to big toe pose (utthita hasta padangusthasana), the practitioner must preserve the even balance, pelvic tilt, internal rotation of the thighs, and spinal extension of mountain pose. It is, therefore, the ultimate preparatory pose.
Every yoga class in bound to have at least one mountain pose since it is the starting position for practically every standing posture. Mountain pose is an excellent (and often necessary) transition into a long list of standing poses that range from tree to triangle.
It is also the starting position for sun salutation (surya namaskara). Typically, the practitioner spends one breath in mountain pose (with palms in anjali mudra at heart center), sweeps the arms up on an inhale, and exhales into a forward fold before continuing with the sun salutation practice. Whether it is part of a sun salutation sequence or not, Saraswati recommends always following mountain pose with some sort of inversion.
Mountain pose is a preparatory pose for more difficult standing balances and a starting position for standing postures, but it also stands alone as understated and powerful asana. Be sure to return to mountain pose, even as an advanced practitioner, to center and re-energize.
Quadriceps. The quadricep muscles cover the front and sides of the femur, making up much of the muscle mass of the thighs. The quads work to stabilize and allow extension of the knee joint. In mountain pose, the quads engage to keep the body upright. Internally rotating the thighs also strengthens the quads.
Triceps surae. The triceps surae muscles consist of the gastrocnemius, in the back of the calf, and the soleus, in the front of the calf. These muscles stabilize the ankles and provide the power when walking and jumping. Mountain pose and, in general, all standing strengthens the triceps surae.
Abdominal muscles. The abdominals are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. Mountain pose lengthens the rectus abdominus (the six pack) and the obliques (the muscles deep in the sides of the abdomen).
Latissimus dorsi. The latissimus dorsi muscles are located in the mid-back. They rotate and extend the shoulder joints. Raising your arms above your head in mountain pose opens your chest and shoulders, strengthening the lats.
Deltoids. The deltoid muscles form the rounded contour of the outer shoulders. They prevent dislocation of the arm during heavy lifting. Mountain pose strengthens the deltoid muscles, particularly if you hold your arms parallel to your ears (raised and slightly back).
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii muscles are the large muscles on the back of the upper arms responsible for straightening them. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk quickly. Extending your arms above your head in mountain pose also strengthens the triceps.