Do you know that standing postures can transform your life?
Today we start a series of articles in which we discuss and give some indications of the different groups of postures (asanas) that are usually performed in classes, so that you can know their effects, contraindications, which materials can be used, and to give some practical advices for its execution.
We will begin by the STANDING POSTURES, as you will realize throughout this article, the adjustments we learn to do on a basic standing posture (eg. the Tadasana), can and should be applied to all other remaining standing postures.
The standing asanas are known as Utthistha Shiti.
In practice, it is with these postures we enter for the 1st time in contact with our outer body, from the perspective of Yoga. They awaken the dormant intelligence of our soles, heels, arches of the feet, knees, hips, shoulders and spine. In fact, the standing asana guide us on a fantastic journey, from our outside to the inside.
This one of the reasons why, when you arrive at the practice room, your teacher kindly asks you to take off your sneakers and socks, because you will practice barefoot.
At first it may seem strange to you, as you walk with your poor feet stuffed inside shoes (often very tight, rigid and not anatomical!) 12 or more hours per day!
But if you think about it, and after the first lesson, you’ll understand the reason of this request.
The feet are a basic structure of our body, fantastic!
His bone and muscle architecture has evolved, until it allow us to place ourselves in the standing posture. When we stand up, all our weight will be supported by the feet. It is then important to practice barefoot so gradually and through the practice of yoga, you may return your feet to their natural strength and flexibility, and be aware of them.
So you can make conscious and independently activate each of the fingers of your feet (maybe in a few years, and continuing to use so tight shoes, some of us no longer have 5 toes on each foot, but just a big toe? ..!), feel the skin contact of the feet with the floor area of each foot.
Only this way you can adjust yourself properly and evenly in basic posture of standing postures already referred – the Tadasana.
In implementing the standing postures, and as is readily apparent, feet and legs are of fundamental importance. They will be the basis of support for the implementation of any standing posture.
Let us analyze in more detail:
The feet are the foundation of our body, the whole structure is as if it had been designed to support the body weight.
The toes, heels and arches of the feet, allow us to keep our body aligned upright posture.
Any change of this alignment, this will disrupt our standing posture upright.
- When there is a pronation of the feet – the inner arch of the foot collapses toward the ground – this change causes a misalignment of the entire vertical posture.
- When the toes are compressed one against the other – this causes a contraction of the base of support, and were more unstable in standing posture.
- If there is an excessive rise of the heels – this results in a displacement of body weight, which destroys its vertical alignment.
The consequence of these changes is that the delicate balance of the skeleton, muscles and internal organs, gets disturbed. Other body parts will then have to compensate for the one that is not doing his job properly.
For example, in the standing posture of Tadasana, if the body weight is on the toes instead of heels, the body leans forward, and the whole front of the body – the shins, kneecaps, quadriceps , abdomen, anterior chest, throat, face and eyes – will have to bear all the burden.
The tension that is created can then be imperceptible, but little by little, postural imbalance that exists, can lead to real problems.
Ankles act as fasteners that sustain the legs at the base. If your ankles are weak or collapsed internally, legs no longer have a strong base from which we can raise or stretch our body upright.
The knee is the primary joint of the leg, allowing its flexion and extension.
It is however a weak joint, compared with for example the hip joint. In addition, the knee will have to bear the full weight of the body during the entire life.
If we add to these factors, the fact that we walk, we run or do any other sport that overload the knee joints, we can understand that our knees will be throughout life, much in demand and suffer major impacts and pressures.
We must then treat and take very good care of this very important joint of our body!
When the leg is stretched, the patella acts as a seal that keeps the thigh and tibia aligned.
When the calf (twins) and the thigh are not aligned in the same plane, the patella will have to rotate about its axis, which causes a limitation of motion of flexion, extension and rotation, with the consequent gradual degeneration and deterioration of the joint, bony structures (suffering some friction in the other) and therefore joint mobility.
The legs are the pillars that keep the body upright and also allow us to move and shift.
For this to happen, ankles, shins, knees and thighs, have to individually exercise an enormous upward force to counteract the action of gravity.
If we do not exercise them intelligently, and with the passage of time, awkward postures, injuries, and lack of exercise, will help to reduce this rising energy.
When our stand (legs) is weakened, the upper structure (trunk, arms and head) is threatened and sinks.
Without a strong legs, this sinking of the upper structure causes the trunk and internal organs that are housed in it being pinched, and lead to a number of diseases or injuries.
The implementation of these postures has, immediately, a very beneficial effect on our everyday life. They teach the basics of correct body alignment and movement, and develop awareness of how to sit, stand up and walk properly.
For anyone who is sitting for long hours per day at work, they are excellent for removing accumulated tension, discomfort and pain. Leave us awake and refreshed, physically and mentally.
At an articular level, when we solicit the various joints of the body by flexing them and stretching them, we improve their mobility and range of motion, preventing cases of stiffness and joint pain that can go installing, as we becoming sedentary, and not move around properly.
Another important aspect to mobilizing and releasing the joints during yoga practice – for example, making a spinal twist in a sitting asana – is the fact that allowing the prana, which could be stagnant in the joints due to its stiffness and tension can flow and circulate properly throughout the body.
When prana flows freely, the movements become more flexible, graceful, flowing and with the appearance of no effort.
We feel more energetic, lighter!
Regarding to its muscular effects, a regular practice allows the neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles, wrists, fingers and feet to be stronger and more flexible.
At an organic level, and due to the movement of the whole body, it will stimulate digestion (relieving constipation) and regulates the kidneys function. Blood circulation and breathing improves.
To develop the vitality and combat idleness, we should perform these postures and the passages between them dynamically – this allows to develop coordination and keeps the body and mind alert. The arms and legs should move simultaneously and always coordinated with the breath.
However, work with determination and commitment does not mean working with tension – it is important to learn to stand firm, but relaxed during the execution of the postures.
Contraindications of standing postures
We must not forget that Yoga is not innocuous. And if its practice can have many benefits, it also has some contraindications and precautions to take. In case you have a specific problem, should always consult your doctor before start practicing.
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Nervous system disorders
- During menstruation some postures may be advised to avoid (talk to your teacher)
- In the first three months of pregnancy or with problems during pregnancy
- Back or knee injuries.
Advice for practice
In order to maintain the correct distances for your body in the standing postures you should always pay attention to your proportion of arms / legs / body.
If you feel fatigued or with tired legs, you can do the Virasana before or after these postures.
For you to don’t slip and keep your balance, and to be able to properly align the posture, always uses a stiky-mat (anti-slip surface).
To facilitate alignment and spatial location of your body use the walls as a reference, or as support of body weight.
For example, if you perform the standing postures with the cleaver of the posterior foot against the wall, that will enhance and strengthen the action of the calf (muscle of the calf).
If you have difficulties in maintaining proper alignment in the postures, you can use aid material like blocks, chairs or belts depending on the posture.