The mountain pose in yoga, otherwise known as “tadasana” in Sanskrit, is one of the principal standing poses in any traditional yoga practice. It can also sometimes be referred to as “samasthiti,” meaning “steady stance” in Sanskrit, because of the groundedness and concentrated preparation it gives. You will often do this posture when beginning the practice, during the traditional sun salutations, and/or in between setting up for standing yoga postures.
The mountain pose has various benefits that go beyond your yoga practice, such as muscle building and postural improvements. The pose can even be done outside of a yoga sequence if you simply need a posture check-in in your day.
While the mountain pose is considered a basic pose, it is much more complex than it looks. When performed correctly, the mountain pose is incredibly active and meticulous and is also perfect for setting up your mindset and body awareness before starting your yoga practice.
In this article, I will show you step by step how to do mountain pose and take you through some counter stretches to release the tension you may feel after the pose.
How to Do Mountain Pose, A Step by Step Guide
1. Start by standing straight, with your feet together with your big toes touching or at hip distance apart.
2. Spread out your toes, lift the arches of your feet, and distribute your weight evenly throughout both of the feet.
3. Engage your glutes and core, by tucking in your tailbone and lower belly, while still having your spine in a neutral position.
4. Keep your legs straight, but have a slight bend in the knees and pull your knee caps upwards to keep your quadriceps and inner leg muscles engaged.
5. Relax your shoulders as you pull them back and away from your ears as you keep your arms along the sides of your body, with your elbows slightly bent.
6. Look ahead of you with a relaxed face and keep your spine long, as if someone is pulling a string from the crown of your head.
7. Check that your hips and shoulders are stacked and leveled.
8. Breath deeply in this pose and notice all your muscles working and your joints micro-adjusting in order to keep you balanced. Stay for a few breaths (at least ten).
Check out my step by step video tutorial on how to do the Mountain Pose:
Counter Stretches To Mountain Pose
To release any tension you may feel after the Mountain Pose, here are some counter stretches you can do.
1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Take your feet hip distance apart and, with a long spine, hinge from the hips to fold forward. Reach the hands towards your feet with as much bend in the knees as you need.
You can even grab opposite elbows and sway from side to side. This pose will release tension in your legs, spine, and lower back. Hold for 10 breaths.
2. Downward Facing Dog Twist (Parivritta Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Get into a table top position, with the palms under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Lift the hips up into a downward dog, with the spine long and heels working toward the floor. Take opposite hand to opposite thigh or ankle while pressing the supporting palm on the floor to keep the balance. This variation of downward dog will twist your spine to release its tension and stiffness. Hold for 5-10 breaths on each side.
Muscles And Joints Involved In Mountain Pose
The core is the trunk of our body, and is made up of our back and abdominal muscles. This pose strengthens the entire core in its stillness and steadiness, which will help in your posture, everyday activities, and workouts.
The quadriceps are the large muscles we have on the upper, front legs. Strong quads will help us find more ease in walking, running, jumping, squatting, etc. By pulling up the knee caps during tadasana, you are actively working and strengthening the quads.
Inner Thighs (Adductors)
The thighs are crucial in stabilizing our hips and core; strong thighs will aid in everyday activities and for leveling up your workouts. By activating the quadriceps and keeping the knees and hips leveled and stacked to maintain stability in tadasana, you are also strengthening the inner thighs .
Every upper body exercise will require some shoulder strength; keeping the shoulders strong will help protect the shoulder joint, increase your range of movement, and prevent slouching. During mountain pose, squeeze the shoulder blades together to strengthen the shoulders.
The gluteus muscles are imperative in helping us walk, run, squat, jump, etc. and to keep our hips stable for core engagement and knee protection. By tucking in the lower back and engaging the lower abdomen during tadasana, you are activating and strengthening your glutes.
Ankle and Toe Joints
Standing with such precision and focus is much more demanding on your ankle and toe joints than you would expect. The ankles and toes are the base of your body, so strengthening these will help you in everyday activities and maintaining posture and balance.
Variations and Modifications the Moutain Pose
Stand against a wall, and feel the back of the head, glutes, and shoulder blades touch the wall. This can help you maintain alignment when first practicing the pose.
Place a block between the thighs, above the knees, to help you engage the inner thighs properly. This will give you a feel of how the muscles should be working in the pose.
Interlace your fingers and reach your arms up for a nice back stretch.
You can even reach to one side to stretch the side of your body.
Close your eyes to test your balance.
Keeping the feet planted on the floor and the core super engaged, sway side to side and forward/back to challenge and strengthen the ankle and toe joints.
Take the pose on your tip toes while keeping all the alignment cues – this will make your core and legs work harder to maintain the balance.
Perform sun salutations
Take the mountain pose into context by working it into the traditional sun salutations and see how it feels to maintain this alignment throughout the flow. Beginners should start with 3-5 rounds.
Warrior I and II
Try the warrior variations with the same alignment awareness as in the mountain pose. Hold them for at least 5-10 breaths on each side.
If you are more advanced, you can put your alignment and balance to the test with inversions such as shoulder stand, headstand, forearm stand, handstand, etc. You have to maintain the same cues, but with the added challenge of being upside down!
Key Benefits of Mountain Pose
In the modern world, we spend a lot of time sitting in front of screens and driving from place to place. As a result, our posture suffers, as these activities cause us to slouch, tense up, and even lose strength in our core.
A “good” posture usually means that your shoulders leveled and stacked over the hips, the toes pointing forward and that the spine can maintain the natural curves without the extremities of lordosis or kyphosis.
Our faces should be relaxed, without the head protruding forward or the jaw clenched, and our knees should have a micro-bend. All these points are similar to the alignment cues you work on in the mountain pose, which is why it is so beneficial to your postural awareness.
While nobody has a “perfect” posture, adjusting our alignment is something that can help with our health significantly. With consistently practicing yoga and specifically standing postures, your alignment in these activities will seep into your day-to-day life.
One of the key elements that make yoga a cleansing practice, is the breathwork involved. The benefits of mountain pose can help open up space in the chest to invite more breath and with less tension.
In yoga, “pranayama” (breath work) is for extending the vital life force. Breath is the vital life force, as it gives us oxygen to live and energize our cells.
By breaking our unconscious breathing, which is often shortened due to environmental stressors, we are able to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, we invite feelings of comfort and safety rather than the stress of the fight or flight response. A decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, will also help with your melatonin production to help you sleep better.
Increased Lower Body Strength
Our lower body is comprised of the biggest muscles, which is why their strength is so important in our day-to-day lives. Mountain pose tadasana pose gives us improved strength in our ankles, glutes, quads, calves, and thighs, which all help in walking, getting up, using the stairs, etc.
Increased strength in these muscles can also help us accelerate our workouts and help burn more fat because they need more energy to work . Lower body strength also decreases the risk of falling, knee injuries, and twisted ankles, which is also useful as we age.
Risks and Common Mistakes
With every exercise, it is important to be conscious of the risks and common mistakes to prevent injuries. Firstly, it is important you consult with a professional if you are recovering from surgery/injury or if you are pregnant.
Take extra care in mountain pose if you have lower back issues or low blood pressure. Pregnant women may need to take a wider stance to help with balancing. Finally, take a rest if you experience dizziness or nausea in this pose.
Common mistakes people do are usually linked to poor postural habits. Keep the weight equal in the legs and hips, so that you are not leaning to one side.
Tuck the chin in if it tends to protrude and relax the face. Make sure that the tailbone is slightly tucked, the arches of the feet are lifted, and the knees aren’t hyperextending. Most importantly, DO NOT RUSH. Take your time in this pose in order to reap the benefits and work the muscles.
Every pose in yoga offers a range of benefits, no matter how simple it looks. The mountain pose tadasana, is a perfect example of how deceivingly complex a pose can be. During a yoga practice, you explore and work the entire body to achieve balance and fluidity in the body.
In particular, tadasana helps with setting up the practice by engaging the muscles responsible for proper alignment and beginning the controlled breath.
Taken out of context, this pose can be a useful tool during your study/work breaks to reset your body and maintain good posture in your everyday life. Therefore, give this pose a try in and outside of your yoga practice, and see how consistency can do wonders to your body!