Tadasana ( Palm Tree )
17 Nov 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
Mountain pose, called Tadasana in Sanskrit, is a classic pose that acts as the foundation of all standing yoga poses. This is one of the wonderful asana providing great advantage with a least movement. The sequence lends itself to learning Pranayama, mudra, and bandha as they can be applied in ever increasing layers of deepening concentration once the sequence is memorized. It offers a wonderful opportunity to practice the poet Kabir`s words-
“Entering into your own body and have a solid place for your feet.”
It is a lovely sequence to watch, as it resembles the ideal common also to the Chinese meditation in movement form of Tai Chi Chan, which undoubtedly reached there from India via Tibet. There are some who believe they may share common roots. Indeed when Krishnamacharya studied with his teacher of seven years, Ram Mohan Brahmachari, they lived in the lake Manasarovar region of Tibet.
Although Krishnamacharya`s student BKS Iyengar calls tadasana mountain pose, the master rendered tad as “Palm Tree” done on the tip toes with arms overhead in an outward fingerlock.”
“When the supreme truth is realized, the mind goes away. Who knows where, and who knows how vasana or mental conditioning, karma, and also joy and despair disappear.
The Yogi is then seen to be in a state of continuous and unbroken meditation, firmly established in adamantine meditation or samadhi, like a mountain.”
In contrast, Krishnamacharya rendered tad as a “straight tree” My teacher, Paul Copeland, said that the master`s use if English with him was colorful, descriptive, and very full of imagery. He often referred to this “straight tree” as a palm tree moving to the gentle breezes of the ocean. The Palm Tree is a common tree native to the coastal regions of India and the tropics. It is a long slender tree that manages to survive in spite of its sparse root system. In standing position our bodies are like palm in what we have a small support base relative to our larger upper body. In moving through this Vinyasa, we mimic the gentle swaying motions that this tree makes in response to the wind currents. The pal Tree is an excellent form in which to learn smoothness in the Vinyasa format of flowing movement and breath symmetry. With Practice, the student can learn pacing, conservation of breath, spinal flexibility, and most importantly, concentration.
Krishnamacharya`s completed Tadasana posture is a balancing pose done with the arms outstretched overhead, fingers in outward finger lock that draws the abdomen into a mild Uddiyana bandha, chin down in Jalandhara bandha, feet together with the heels lifted.
The first components of movement free the shoulders, wrists, and upper back. The middle sequence works the mid and lower back as well as hips and inner thighs. The final sequence of movements goes to the extremes of hips, shoulder, and spinal flexion and extension. This sequence is of fundamental importance in preparing you for full forward and back bending.
Of foremost importance in doing this Vinyasa is to maintain an awareness of breath so that it is continuous throughout the sequence. Only when breath is held is there the likelihood of strain and pain. Breath is the warning sign that can protect us from harm. This sequence is especially beneficial in learning the limits of natural range of motions. Thus it forms the basis of all other standing postures.
The importance of this initial position, Samasthiti “standing stable” with the feet apart, is that it points to the core of our being. It is path to the central essence of being human. Just standing steady in tour own inner being. When in that place, there is another presence that one begins to notice. That Presence signals that you are never alone. “Sri Bhagavan explained that God means Samasthiti- that is all that is, plus the Be-ing- in the same way as ‘~O’ means the individual plus the Being and world means the variety plus Be-ing. The Be-ing is in all cases real.” This is the central teachings of Yoga as non-dualism. There are very few expressions of this highest level of Yoga. Among them is the story of a sage and his son.
Seed and Tree story Svetaketu and Uddalaka
In the ChhandogyaChandogya Upanishad (part VI, chapter XI, 1-3) is a dialog of the teaching of the sage Uddalaka and his son Svetaketu. “If my dear, someone were to strike at the root of this large tree it would bleed but live. If he were to strike at the middle, it would bleed but live. If we were to strike at the top, it would bleed but live. Pervaded by the living self, that tree stands firm, drinking in again and again its nourishment and rejoicing. But if the life leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers, if it leaves a third, that branch withers. If it leaves the whole tree the whole tree withers. In exactly the same manner, my dear, said he, “Know this: this bodies dies, bereft of the living self, but the living Self dies not. Now, that which is the subtle essence- in it all that exists has its self. That is the truth. That is the Self. Thou art That, Svetaketu.”
“The world is not other than the mind is not other than the Heart; that is the whole truth.” So the Heart comprises all. This is what is taught to Svetaketu by the illustration of the seed of a fig tree.
“Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
There you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don`t go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this:
Just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.”
Direct your auditory attention to your breath sounds and your visual attention directly in front of you. One exception for Visual gaze is during spinal twists in which you will look as far as possible at eye level. The other exception is during beckbends when your gaze is upon a spot directly above you.
Anyone with low back pain, sciatica, or in the last trimester of pregnancy should modify the forward bend (steps 11-13) and bend their knees (step16). If this is still too strenuous (for instance, for those with acute sciatic pian), keep your torso at a 45-degree angle instead of parallel to the floor. Read the instructions carefully before practicing this sequence.
Instructions of Tadasana ( Palm Tree ) –
- Starting position- stand erect with your feet slightly apart and your arms relaxed at your sides. Close your eyes and contemplate the image of a palm tree swaying naturally from the motion of a breeze. Allow your body`s natural, gentle rocking motions to occur spontaneously. Contemplate the stillness underlying the motion. This is called Samasthiti, standing steady. Open your eyes and continue to breathe deeply.
- INHALING as your arms sweep outward and upward while looking up to an upward namaste. EXHALING, look down as you interlace your fingers and turn your palms into an outward finger lock.
- INHALE as you lift your heels to balance on your toes, coming into palm Tree Pose (Tadasana). Exhale, lowering your heels. Inhale and stretch up from your waist with your feet planted.
- EXHALE, while maintaining the length in your sides, bend to your right. Press your hips to the left while your arms reach to the right.
- Inhale as you return to the erect centered position.
EXHALE, bending to your left side. Let your hips move to the right as your arms move to the left. INHALE as you return to center.
- EXHALE, twisting your torso to the right, squeezing your thighs to maintain a straight line from hands to the feet. Tilt your head up to look to the back of your hands.
- INHALE, returning to center, head and eyes level. EXHALE, twisting to the left, tilt your head upward, stretching your arms outward. INHALE, returning to center
- EXHALE, lower your arms palms down to shoulder height. Then INHALE, rotate the shoulders outward so your palms turn up.
- EXHALE, twist to the left, gaze at your thumb, while maintaining a straight line across your arms. INHALE, returning to center position. EXHALE and twist to the right, looking at your thumb.
- INHALE, return to center while bringing your hands overhead in an outward finger lock.
- EXHALE, pressing your pelvis backward to elongate your spine as you come to Half Forward Bend (Ardha uttanasana).
- INHALE, open your arms straight out from your shoulders, with your palms down.
- EXHALE, sweep your palms together aligned to your back in an outward Palm Salute.
- INHALE, initiate an upward movement from your hands returning to standing with your arms overhead shoulder width apart.
- EXHALE, reaching forward from your chest as you extend your hips backward into a full forward bend. Place your fingertips along the line of your toes, bending your knees if necessary. INHALE, stretching your head and chest forward elongating your spine.
- EXHALE lower your head toward your shins and press your palms toward the floor coming to a full forward bend (Uttanasana). While keeping fingertips fixed to the floor, repeat inhaling up and exhaling downward twice more, progressively bringing your forehead closer to your shins.
- INHALE reaching outward to pull yourself up, returning to erect standing arms overhead.
- EXHALE, spreading your arms outward and behind your back then interlace your fingers while pulling your shoulders and go into a lifted backbend looking overhead.
- INHALE, squeeze your shoulders and go into a lifted backbend looking overhead.
- EXHALE bending forward while pulling your arms away from your back. An option is to stay in the pose for three full breaths, while allowing gravity to deepen your stretch.
- INHALE returning to standing erect.
- EXHALE round your shoulders forward to bring your palms together behind your back into a reverse Namaste.
- INHALE pulling your shoulders together to flatten your hands, expand your chest to look upward.
- EXHALE twisting to the left, squeezing your shoulder blades, while bringing your head level.
Inhale returning to center.
Exhale reverse twist to the right side.
Inhale returning to center.
- Exhale lifting your chest and firm your buttocks as you backbend and look upward.
Inhale returning to center.
- Exhale coming into a gentle forward bend dropping your head.
- Inhale return to center standing position.
Exhale lower your arms to sides, while stretching out your fingers.
Inhale bring your palms to Namaste gesture at your heart. Stand in a comfortable, stable position and observe the benefits of the sequence. Take six full breaths, and then lie down to rest for one to two minutes in Savasana.
Notes to polish your practice
Concentrate on developing this Vinyasa gradually by first memorizing the sequence. It is suggested that you memorize it in segments until the entire sequence can become a flow. The next step is to deepen your pranayama extending the length of the breath with every motion. I recommend that you break down the series learning a few lines at a time. You may want to learn only half the series, ending at pose 14 instead of the entire series. Once you can repeat half the series from memory then you can continue to learn the remainder of the Vinyasa.
Two poses posture that is awkward is reverse Namaste. As an aid in reversing your hands, round your upper back and turn your elbows forward as you rotate then as option is to grasp your forearms behind your back with your hands gradually moving closer to your elbows. This will help to keep your chest expanded and develop your upper back strength.
Benefits of Tadasana ( Palm Tree )
This Tadasana Vinyasa is a beautiful and graceful sequence composed by Krishnamacharya for Paul Copeland, MD to do research on the physiological benefits of Yoga practices. I find its practice continuing to deepen as I have persisted with it for 30 years. It is simple yet elegant;when done repeatedly with breath symmetry, it balances Vata dosha, promoting regularity of breath and a calm mind.
Many Vata conditions benefit from this practice. Some include CFIDS- chronic fatigue immune dysfunctions syndrome, body aches, jointpain, and even chronic conditions of the skeletal system like arthritis, and spondylitis ( a condition in which the bones fuse sometimes with scoliosis and or kyphosis or hunch back).
There is a story about the fourth century Coptic Christian monk, Apa Bane, founder of one of the first Christian desert monasteries south of Cairo, Egypt. His name means “Father Palm Tree” Possibly the saint received this epithet after entering the monastery because of his Kyphotic appearance which reminded them of a palm tree resisting a desert storm. He lived as an ascetic, ate only in a standing position in his dark cell and slept leaning with his chest supported by a wall erected for this purpose. Perhaps he had difficulty in rising after sitting or lying and therefore adopted the habit of eating and sleeping in a standing position. In any case, we can assume that the saint did not recognize hisn stiffness as a disease but assumed it was a fate put upon him by God, which contributed to his unique way of asceticism”. The skeleton of persons with his condition does indeed resemble the lines of growth of the palm tree.
When done first thing in the morning, it is a gentle way to warm up spine and prepare for more difficult for more difficult practices. With practice you can learn to decompress every segment of the spinal column with this sequence. The movements are coupled with lateral flexion, which can promote increased circulation to the spinal disc. It is an ideal sequence for adolescents as it can facilitate an eract posture and optimize height. The practice increases the postures of self-esteem. Who can say which comes first the posture or the esteem.It also lessens the tendency for mild scoliosis curvatures to become greater during developmental years.
It can stand alone and be wonderful way to harmonize breath and motions. I particularly enjoyed doing it for three or up to ten repetitions as a way of deepening my breath and beginning to connet to the primal field of the life force Uddalaka speaks off. When done for more repetition . one can begin to deepen and lengthen the Pranayama and adds steadiness of eyegaze, Drishti.