Through my 14 years of hatha yoga practice, I have come to realize that I am lucky to have practiced with teachers that encouraged rest; rest during practice and a deep savasana following. Most frequently suggested as a place to rest is Child’s Pose or Balasana, which offer students a retreat in the middle of a potentially challenging class. As a teacher of students with a wide variety of mobility and stability, I often find that the students most in need of a break are not able to get into the pose. Tight hip flexors, sore knees and inflexible ankles are a common occurrence, particularly among men, which can make Child’s Pose uncomfortable. Even with props, which can be difficult to maneuver when one is new to yoga, Child’s Pose can be challenging and not a relaxing place to visit!
The shape of Child’s Pose is very similar to the fetal position, which many of us sleep in each night. Additionally, we spend way too much time lingering at the computer with hips and knees flexed, ankles locked and legs crossed. When you consider the shape, sitting at a desk is very similar to an upright version of Child’s Pose. As drivers, texters and computerized beings, we now have “extension amnesia”, which has left the backside of the body (the posterior chain) of the body inactive.
In a recent interview on The Liberated Body Podcast, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist Steven Haines discussed the physical reactions of eyes darting and increased neck muscle activity when we are under stress from the environment (think sitting at your computer or behind the wheel of your car in traffic). He recommends “coming into the extensors, firing the back of the body. When we do that our throat is open, our heart is open, our belly is exposed. This can allow parasympathetic tone to be present.” He goes on to state that we counter these head-centric responses by grounding and feeling in our feet to “switch off all the business in the head.” Steve is a proponent of using the feet and spinal extension as a tool for relaxation response, exactly as one might in Tadasana.
In my classes, I offer students the option of Tadasana as the new resting “poise”. Most asana seek to reflect a variation of Tadasana in some way, so I find it a natural and relaxing place to visit during any fitness routine or stressful moment in the day.
Specifically, standing in Tadasana turns on the extensors of the back body to keep us lifted and elongated which in turn, relaxes the flexors of the front body from their habitually folded and slouched shape. When aligned, Tadasana requires the core muscles to stabilize the spine against gravity for a steady stance and breathing into the abdomen and ribs (abdominal thoracic breath) can be restful and calming to the nervous system.
Come back on Friday to learn how I tune up my Tadasana with Yoga Tune Up®!