How to Stand in Confidence Like a Mountain, Strengthening Your Spine and Connecting with the Cosmos
There are two zero points in the physical practice of YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine. One is horizontal, and one is vertical. They are the foundations upon which other poses are built, points of reference to consider as you move through more complex physical sequences.
The vertical zero point happens in standing practice. In this, your upright spine is an active energy conduit between the earth and the sky. A yoga session could consist of nothing but Tadasana, the mountain pose, as you discover greater rooted, vital expansion within your body/being. You learn how to stand with your weight distributed evenly, your spine fluid and your mind clear. You are fully at home in yourself and the moment. When you stand out of alignment, the natural flow of energy in your body and its various systems is impinged, placing stress on your spine and your whole self.
This pose is key to understanding how energy moves in all other standing poses. Always take a moment to establish two-way moving energy in Tadasana before you step into a different pose. Tadasana strengthens yang energy, drawing you up out of any excessive heaviness. At a physical level, it improves posture; strengthens thighs, knees and ankles; and improves circulation. It helps to relieve sciatica and flat feet, and regulates digestive, regulatory and respiratory systems.
Your hands can be alongside your body, or in prayer position over your heart. You may choose to place your feet together, or you can place them hip-width apart, so that you have the width of one foot between them. Keeping your feet together helps to contain apana vayu, or downward-moving energy. This allows you to feel more upward vitality, which can assist in times of fatigue, depression or lack of focus and confidence. However, this containment is not beneficial if you are tense, have a migraine, or are on your monthly period. In these situations, you need to allow your downward energy to move freely. Placing your feet apart allows for greater relaxation, release and exchange with the Earth, which can be deeply healing when stressed or suffering from insomnia or high blood pressure.
Stand erect with feet either hip width apart or together. Your knees are neither locked nor bent, simply relaxed. Let your navel move gently back towards the spine. Your tailbone tilts slightly inward towards the front of your body, so that it releases like a plumb line towards the Earth. Your eyes are fixed on a point in front of you, as the crown of the head broadens and floats gently upward towards the sky. Your shoulders are relaxed.
Breathe in and out mindfully. Allow your breath awareness to deepen. Let your breath be natural, neither forced nor controlled. Notice what you feel in your body. Sense that your spine, the central channel of energy that runs through your body/being, connects the sky to the earth, through you.
Bring your awareness to downward-moving energy. As you breathe in, your belly rises. Exhale, your belly moves back; allow the soles of your feet to release towards the floor. Let the tailbone be like a plumb line, heavy, releasing towards the ground.
Let each of the vertebrae through your lumbar spine and lower back begin to shift and release towards the floor. Sense the pelvic basin become heavy and release towards the floor.
Each of the internal organs through the belly start to relax towards the ground. Allow the hips and thighs to release towards the floor. Let your knees release and feel more spacious. Let your shins, calves, ankles release.
The soles of your feet broaden into the ground. If you were standing on something soft like sand, you would notice the imprint of the soles of your feet deepening into the sand. Breathe in, belly rises. Exhale, imagine that your legs are neutral tubes of breath through which energy moves downward towards the core of the Earth.
Once you have a sense of downward-moving energy, bring your awareness to the crown of your head, as though there were a golden string attached to the center of your crown. It gently lengthens you up towards the center of the cosmos. Breathe in. As you exhale, sense your spine growing up and out of your pelvic basin. Your shoulders release as your chest broadens and relaxes. Your chin is just slightly tucked in so that your neck lengthens. Consider how the crown of your head is the extension to your spinal column, as your head moves back so that your ears are directly over your shoulders. As you breathe, allow your body to be an open, spacious conduit for energy, lengthening towards the center of the cosmos, and releasing towards the center of the Earth.
Mindfully scan your body. Where do you hold tension? Where do you feel relaxed? Can you allow yourself to continue to open, release and feel a flow within the whole? Let your feet broaden and root as they settle into the ground. Feel energy move downward, towards the core of the Earth.
Notice the crown of your head broaden. Let it float effortlessly upward. Feel your connection with the cosmos, the whole. As your feet release into the ground, the Earth meets you and a wave of energy rebounds up through your body towards the crown of your head.
Breathe in, draw energy from the cosmos down through the whale spout in the centre of the crown of your head, allowing it to travel through your spine and legs, out your feet, and into the ground. Be a neutral conduit for energy from the Cosmic Intelligence to the Earth. Exhale and allow the energy from the Earth to rebound back up through your legs and spine, out the crown of your head, towards the cosmos.
Allow yourself to feel rooted in the awareness of your physical sensations, the energy that flows through your body; and aware more globally of your sense of place within the whole. Feel within. Feel without. Feel the flow between the inner and the outer and let these become one.
Parvatiis an award-winning musician (“I Am Light”, “Electro Yog”, “Yoga In The Nightclub”), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (“The Grace Mindset”, “Aonani of Avalon”, “The Three Supreme Secrets for Lasting Happiness”) and founder and CEO of the nonprofit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.