Moving Into Stillness with Erich Schiffmann
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A Few AsanasPrint View

Cat Pose, Mountain Pose, the "ten core poses" (Standing Forward Fold, Standing Side Stretch, Dog Pose, Spread Leg Forward Fold, Bridge Pose, Reclining Leg Stretch, Locust Pose, Sage Twist, Hero Pose, Shoulder Stretches) and the Lotus are presented here.  The other thirty-two poses I recommend can be found in my book.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This is called Mountain Pose because it promotes the experience of stillness, strength, relaxed power, and immovable stability associated with mountains. Remember that experiencing yourself in stillness is the most direct way to experience yourself with clarity. This pose, and coming back to this stillness after other poses, is one of the very best ways of becoming acquainted with stillness.

Tadasana is the most basic pose and is, therefore, the foundation for all others. There are two versions of Mountain Pose. The first, being stationary and passive, involves learning to stand erect, relaxed, and still. The second (see Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness), being more active, involves learning to stretch and elongate your body from the inside out. Each version has two primary lines of energy radiating outward from your center: one line moving upward through the spine and one line downward through the legs. Your hips will be in cat tilt.


1 Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.   Look down at your feet and check that they are straight: the inner edges of each foot pointing straight ahead. Spread your toes.

2 Bend your knees slightly, gently bob up and down a few times, and allow the weight of your body to sink into your feet. Snuggle the soles of your feet into the floor, make your feet heavy, and get grounded. This is easier to do with your legs bent. Experience yourself being supported by the floor.

3 With your legs still bent, align your center. Bring your pelvis into a soft cat tilt by gently bringing the navel backward toward the spine until the tailbone points straight down toward your heels. The sacrum will become more vertical as the pelvis rotates backward. This is not a strong cat tilt (it's more like neutral), but you are turning your pelvis toward cat tilt.

4 Maintaining the alignment of your center as effortlessly as possible, slowly straighten your legs. Do this slowly so as to keep track of what you're doing. Your feet will become more grounded as you do this, more firmly in contact with the floor because you are pressing straight down into them. Merge each foot into the floor and be sensitive not to let your weight be too far forward or too far backward, or too much toward the inside or outside of either foot Balance the four directions equally so that each whole foot is engaged, so you have the best possible connection with the floor, with the earth.

5 Once your legs are straight, maintain thee alignment of your center by gently moving the thigh bones backward as you delicately press forward with your tailbone. This is another way of saying "Rotate the pelvis backward" or "Turn your hips toward cat tilt." Observe how these opposing movements work together to create stability between your upper and lower body.

6 Close your eyes. With your eyes closed, lean forward a little and shift your weight to the front of your feet. Notice how the toes grab the floor to prevent a fall. Stay here a moment and experience the strain both in your feet and throughout your body. Then lean backward slightly and shift your weight onto the heels. Feel your toes becoming weightless and lifting from the floor. Stay here a moment and experience the uncertain balance.

7 Shift your weight forward and backward several times, experiencing the difference, and then look for the balance point at which your weight is equally distributed between the heels and toes - just in front of the ankles. Be sensitive and delicate as you do this. When you find the perfect balance point, settle into it and stand absolutely still.

8 To achieve perfect balance you must organize your center of gravity (your hips, abdomen, and pelvis) directly above the central point of your base of support (your feet). Find this spot by paying close attention to the inner sensations of balance. When your posture is aligned improperly, you will experience the downward pull of gravity as heaviness. When you are perfectly aligned and balanced, however, you will experience a buoyant lightness and spontaneous, natural uprightness. You will feel expanded, spacious, relaxed, and nearly weightless. Make subtle internal adjustments until you feel this way.

9 Elongate your core upward through the crown of your head. Your core, your "invisible spine," extends from the tailbone at the bottom to the crown of the head. Feel where this is, then allow your spine and core to release and elongate. Imagine the spaces between your vertebrae expanding, especially in any area where you tend to experience discomfort or pain. As the spaces between vertebrae expand and increase, you will sense a subtle downward pull from the coccyx and a gentle upward movement throughout the length of your spine. Become familiar with this subtle movement.

10 Allow your chest gently to expand, float, and ease its way upward away from the pelvis. This will elongate the waist and increase the distance between your hips and lower ribs. You are learning to create, or allow, more space in your body. Keep going upward through the crown.

11 Feel the thoracic area of your spine, behind your heart, and allow it to move gently forward into your back. Feel how this encourages your chest to expand, and experience how this new openness is supported by the strength of your spine. Allow the sternum to rise effortlessly and come forward so the collarbones broaden across the top of your chest. Soften the shoulders back and down, away from the ears, and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Keep your navel backward toward the spine.

12 Allow your head to float upward off the shoulders Soften your neck and lower or elevate the chin, as needed, in order to eliminate any strain in your throat. Relax your face, allow a faint smile to emerge, and simply let your arms dangle limply. The more your arms, hands, and fingers relax, the more your neck, spine, and core will elongate.

13 Be aware again of your feet on the floor and continue letting the weight of your body drop downward into the earth. At the same time, continue rising upward through the crown of your head. The weight of your body goes down, and the inner feeling rises up. Experience yourself going up and down at the same time, without going anywhere.

14 Be very grounded as you sense the spinal release coming upward and out through the crown of your head. This grounded, upward-moving inner feeling is the natural impulse of balanced uprightness. The more you feel it, the more you'll know your balance is correct. Sense the subtle, effortless traction between your head and feet as they move away from one another. Your core now extends the full length of your body, from the soles of your feet at the bottom to the fontanel at the top.

15 Relax. As you relax, you will expand. It's this subtle sense of expansion that effortlessly holds you up and ensures your new alignment.

16 Breathe smoothly. Remember that the breath orchestrates the feeling-tone of the pose. Orchestrate stillness, softness, smooth evenness.

17 Be still. He motionless. Do not move a muscle. Do not even think. Just be wide awake and aware. How does it feel to be you right now? Be wide open like space, like the sky.

Benefits: Standing Poses

The Standing Posts are big, whole body poses that teach you to move in an even, integrated way. They make the finer, more contortionistic poses possible. He sure to spend plenty of time with these poses, even as you become more advanced, but especially as a beginner, because they build the strength and endurance necessary to support the increased flexibility that will accrue over time through practice. The Standing Postures help create a balance between strength and flexibility throughout the body by developing both simultaneously, not one at the expense of the other. They especially increase strength, power, and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips, which then become a firm base of support for your spine and torso in other poses. Feet, knees, legs, hips, spine, torso, abdomen, chest, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands, even the fingers and toes, all gain strength and become more elastic with these poses - free of tension, aches, and pains. And because they are somewhat strenuous, they improve blood circulation, stimulate digestion and elimination, build heat for other poses, expulse dullness and depression, and leave you feeling invigorated, refreshed, and light. All of this helps bring the subtle energies of the body into harmonization. Daily life will then seem and be easier. You won't tire as easily. You'll have more energy and enthusiasm and be more interested in what's going on.

Benefits: Mountain Pose I or Tadasana I

Mountain Pose is the foundation for all poses. It aligns the body, teaches correct standing, increases awareness, develops a refined sense of balance, and steadies the breath. The basic ideas here translate into all poses.

Cat Pose, Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Fold, Standing Side Stretch, Dog Pose, Spread Leg Forward Fold, Bridge Pose, Reclining Leg Stretch, Locust Pose, Sage Twist, Hero Pose, Shoulder Stretches, Lotus

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