Each yoga pose you practice contains its own inherent wisdom. Each pose is an expression of a specific quality of energy. Therefor each pose has something to teach you about who you are, and who you could become.
The Shapes You Take Shape You
Practicing a sequence of yoga poses means you are constantly shape-shifting through different energies. And those shapes will certainly shape how you feel and who you are. This brings me to one of my most favorite yoga poses to shape my inner life: Tadasana.
Tadasana, aka Mountain Pose, is when you stand up evenly on your own two feet. You stack your joints in an upright manner so that standing tall is as effortless as possible.
Heels, then hips, then shoulders, then tips of your elf ears all stacked up.
The feet should ground evenly down, while lifting up through the back of the skull to lengthen and decompress the spine. The chest is open with the palms facing forward.
When I teach Mountain Pose I like to invite students to imagine that they have a basket of fruit on their head. How would you stand if you needed to carry a heavy basket on the top of your head for miles? You better believe you’d be incredibly upright to optimize your relationship to gravity.
But this being upright is just so powerful on many more levels…
What it Means to Be Upright
A while back I read an incredible book called Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts by Reb Anderson Roshi. Anderson was abbot at the San Francisco Zen Center from 1986-1995.
The book eloquently examines the Bodhisattva Precepts which are meant to help lead the practitioner to awakening. But in the book Anderson also closely examines his own “uprightness” – essentially, his honesty, and lack thereof at various times in his practice and life. It is fascinating.
Reading this book made me feel so much more excited to live honestly with integrity, whether or not anyone ever knows it.
This book, not surprisingly, was given to me by YogaSole studio owner Evalena Leedy. Evalena is fiercely committed to her own impeccability. This is a small, but huge, example of Evalena’s uprightness…
To Be Upright Is to Be Honest
Last year many of us yoga teachers were scrambling to figure out if we met the requirements to become an International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) certified teacher. June 30 was the deadline for applications to be “grand-parented” into the organization based on past experience and training.
There were two pathways to certification. The first pathway was to prove that you had done enough trainings to piece together the requirements (this is the path I took, and was very gratefully approved).
The second pathway was that if you had been practicing as a yoga therapist since before 2008, you could apply just based on your hours of experience.
One day I was discussing these paths with Evalena, who has been teaching therapeutic classes and privates for years. I asked her if she would be applying.
No, she said. She would not. She had looked back in her records and saw she started teaching therapeutic yoga a couple months after the required date.
Now, Evalena certainly could have massages the dates a little to her advantage, but in her response she was so clear that she had no interest in that. Her loyalty was to her own uprightness within herself.
Because really, if you don’t have that, you’ve got nothin.
So the moral of the story is, practice Tadasana! Stand tall and stable like a mountain. Then live with the integrity learned through that stance.
Ps. Here’s a photo Evalena sent to me from her morning meditation. Dang Mother Nature! You fine.