In the Iyengar tradition the pictured pose, up until recently, was always referred to as ‘tadasana’. Tadasana translates as ‘mountain pose’ and the analogy is often invoked of standing tall like a mountain when it is taught. In recent publications coming out from the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI), or the source of Iyengar yoga in Pune, India, this pose started to be referred to as ‘samasthiti’. Samasthiti, in its most basic sense, translates as ‘equal standing’ and refers to an attempt to bring an evenness to the right and the left, and the front and the back, when taking this position. This said, if you were to attend a class with one of the Iyengars today you would probably hear the word ‘tadasana’ used more commonly than ‘samasthiti’. So which is it?
Both labels refer to exactly the same pose. Either way the importance of this posture should not be underestimated. This asana is considered as the foundation or blueprint pose for all other poses. Any discrepancy in the body will be revealed to you in this pose, and any discrepancy you have in this pose will show up in all the other postures. Physically it is one of the least demanding of all poses, so by continually correcting and adjusting your tadasana or samasthiti, you are in effect adjusting and correcting all of your poses. Conversely, Mr Iyengar says that in every pose that you take, no matter how advanced or complex, your aim is to find an element of tadasana or samasthiti in it.
This pose is good to come back to a number of times, particularly during the standing pose part of your sequence. As your mind starts to become focused through the working of the standing postures, and as you come back to it again and again, you become more aware of how the placement and working of your feet affects the orientation and working of your legs. In turn you start to become more cognisant of the imbalances and the actions required to bring more symmetry and evenness. This evenness of the legs helps to position the hips in a more neutral orientation in order to create a vertical extension of the spine. By creating a subtle extension through the arms and drawing the top of the shoulders away from the sides of the neck a resistance is created which allows you to create a lift and fullness to the chest. The extension of the spine and the lift of the chest helps to allow the skull to be positioned in its correct alignment in relation to the torso. When the skull is positioned correctly, the front brain can recede towards the back brain.
When this pose is performed with precision, and the active, thinking front brain is drawn back towards the more intuitive back brain, and the chest, where our real intelligence lies, is made predominant, it will become apparent that whether the pose is referred to as ‘tadasana’ or ‘samasthiti’ is of no real consequence!