Through my 16 years of hatha yoga practice, I have come to realize that I am lucky to have practiced with teachers that encouraged rest both during practice and with a deep savasana following. One of the most frequently suggested places to rest during practice is Child’s Pose, or Balasana, which offers students a retreat in the middle of a potentially challenging class. However, 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 do not have the mobility to get into this pose. Tight hip flexors, sore knees and inflexible ankles are common occurrences (especially among men) that can make Child’s Pose uncomfortable. Even with props, which can be difficult to maneuver when one is new to the pose, Child’s Pose can be challenging and not relaxing at all!
Child’s Pose is not unfamiliar to the body. The shape is very similar to the fetal position, which I catch myself sleeping in each night. Additionally, many of us spend way too much time lingering at the computer with hips and knees flexed and ankles locked, which makes sitting at a desk 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) inactive.
In my classes, I offer students the option of Tadasana as the new resting “poise”. Adding the “i” to pose allows a practitioner to ground in oneself and come back to their breath. 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.
More 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. Tadasana requires the core muscles to stabilize the spine for a steady stance, and breathing an abdominal thoracic breath (belly to ribs) in Tadasana is restful and calming to the nervous system.
My favorite way to prepare for Tadasana is to bring my feet into sensational grounding by rolling out my feet using a Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball, which is grippy and pliable. For an example of foot rolling check out this video. Follow your roll out by tuning up with a YTU Tadasana variation I like to call the XP Connection.
To find the XP Connection, come into Tadasana (see photo A). Find the bottom tip of the sternum, called the xyphoid process, with your fingers. Then, find the pubic symphysis with your other hand – this is where the two halves of your pubic bone come together at the front (see photo B). When these two points are away from one another in standing, the abdominals are overstretched and unable to contract leaving the spinal muscles shortened. Alignment of the skeleton allows for the muscles that wrap around the center to contract – it’s standing abdominal work! Neutralize any pelvic tilt by organizing the front of the ribs with the front of the pelvis, creating additional spinal stability through an active energetic connection.
Common issues seen in Tadasana, such as rib thrusting or over-emphasizing tucking the tail, are alleviated through the balancing of the XP Connection. You can use the XP Connection in line at the grocery store while you wait to check out, or in advanced poses in your yoga class. Once embodied, this connection can help relieve lower back discomfort while standing, as well as in challenging poses like Urdhva Dhanurasana and Camel Pose, which can leave the lower back vulnerable if the XP Connection is turned off.
Use Tadasana to create poise in your practice and to steady your nervous system by focusing towards meditative awareness and grounding. The benefits are extensive including reduction of high blood pressure, improved posture and down-regulation from states of tension. The next time you need a break, stand in Tadasana and become a practitioner of focused relaxation and discovery!
Holli Rabishaw is an Embodied Movement Professional, E-RYT 500 hours and Integrated Yoga Tune Up® Teacher in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Enjoy her group classes at Yoga Works Tarzana and Woodland Hills. Learn more at www.holliyoga.com