Lesson 1: Introduction to Spinal Integrity
“Tadasana is the starting place from which all other asana is born. Once you know Tadasana’s efforts in your body, all other asana becomes simply one – or many – intentional shifts in specific joints or body parts away from Tadasana, while the other areas of the body maintain its neutrality.”
– Alexandria Crow (Yoga Journal)
Tadasana in Every Asana
“Find tadasana in every asana” is a yogic catchphrase well worth understanding and utilising – both in your teaching and your own practice. Continued observation of it within any energetic discipline can bring surprising results.
A ’neutral’ or ‘tadasana’ spine supports both the physical structure and subtle anatomy. The balance of sthira (support) and sukha (openness) stem initially from integration with the spine (sushumna).
Unnecessary strain or inadequate stability through the central axis of the body will potentially cause ensuing disharmony throughout the rest of one’s anatomic coordination, physiological functioning, psychological wellbeing and energetic steadiness. If we are not aware of sustaining qualities of ‘tadasana in every asana’ then fatigue / hyperactivity, emotional stress / torpidity and also, unfortunately, injuries may result.
“If you would seek health, look first to the spine”.– Socrates
Pushing students to their limits may compromise the stabilising muscles of the spine and overexert the mobilising muscle groups that help support the major joint complexes of the body. Integrating spinal awareness with the breath will help students far more effectively than encouraging their force of will to ‘go deeper’ and ‘push to their edge’.
Cultivating Steadiness and Comfort in Asana
A healthy spine is a balanced spine. We can even say that a healthy spine is a healthy mind – as the primary nadi, Sushumna, relates directly to the physical spine and one’s emotional wellbeing.
Students may initially try to either muscle (drag) or passively collapse (drop) their body into unhealthy positions and depths that have little or no relationship with their spinal integrity.
Over the course of repetitive misuse and misunderstanding of their bodies (and breath) during practice, they are unaware of Patanjali’s Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam. This can be translated as ‘steady comfortable posture’. This does not necessarily refer just to physical poses – as ‘asana’ can also relate to ‘state of mind’.
Though Patanjali’s sutra primarily refers to one’s intention during meditation it can be very effectively observed in any modern Hatha based physical practice as well. Without some effort there cannot be some ease – and vice versa. It should not be considered as an ‘all or nothing’ approach. The balance of opposites in a student’s practice must be refined rather than un-found.
Here’s a lecture and demonstration introducing spinal integrity and ‘Tadasana in every asana.’