By Yoga Journal
Alexandria Crow explains why a pose's foundation is so key and what your teacher wants you to do with this key alignment cue.
My father is a builder so I have grown up learning about how things are constructed. I remember a pool he built hanging over the edge of a cliff on a mountain in Arizona. It was absolutely gorgeous. But a builder doesn't always get to control every piece of a project, and almost immediately upon completion, problems under the surface began. The foundation and grading, which had been handled by another company, weren't strong enough or properly done. The pool, suspended in mid-air, began to ever so slowly slide downhill. And unless something was done, it had the potential to pull the rest of the house with it. Eventually the pool was fixed by going back and correcting its foundation. What on earth does that have to do with yoga?
Importance of the Foundation in Yoga Poses
In yoga asana we often talk about what touches the ground as the "foundation of the pose." Like with the pool, how that foundation is positioned and the effort that goes into solidifying it are key to building a wise, stable, and lasting structure on top.
Let's take the simplest example: Tadasana (Mountain Pose). While Tadasana may appear to an onlooker like nothing more than standing, the difference between the two is similar to the difference between the first and second pools.
How to "Root to Rise" In a Pose
The instruction "root to rise" is a pretty common one in yoga classrooms. And this instruction's intent is fundamental in building solid poses from the ground up, but I don't think students always grasp the meaning.
To root to rise, you must first lay a well-intentioned foundation for your asana. That means paying careful attention to precisely how you plant your feet, hands, forearms -- whatever is touching the ground. That is the seed of your pose. How you place those body parts directly affects your pose's ability to grow.
Once your foundation is planted, tend to it. Imagine growing roots from the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands. Pressing down into the foundation not only roots it in place but also activates the muscles above it. Muscle activation that starts at the base can travel up through each joint, providing the structural integrity to grow tall, grounded, stable, and wise.
Build Mountain Pose from the Ground Up
So back to Tadasana, first bring your feet into a neutral position together or hip-width apart, aligning your heel behind your second or third toe. Spread your toes wide, balance your weight evenly across your feet, and press down through them strongly. Pay attention and you'll feel your lower leg muscles working. Mindfully apply the same effort joint by joint up through your body to the crown of your head.
Once the stable foundation and roots have been set and the pose has been built on effort from the ground up, the asana should feel strong and solid. This goes for every pose. If you want to learn arm balances and inversions, this effort is fundamental to flight, balance, and stability.
Work on rooting down through your foundation and letting the rest of your body rise with wise muscular effort in poses like Plank, Chaturanga, Downward-Facing Dog, and Dolphin.
About Alexandria Crow
The practice of yoga has taught Alexandria Crow how to approach life with open eyes and a fearless attitude -- a discovery she hopes to pass onto her students. She guides her students step by step through creative sequences providing all of the components needed for each individual to feel successful. By teaching not only alignment but also how to pay attention to what is going on in the body and mind in each moment, Alex teaches her students how to bring greater awareness to everything they do.