Samastithi 1

Lesson 12 Module 2

Samasthiti is the basic standing posture. We stand with the base of our big toes touching and the heel slightly apart so that the feet are parallel. The straight line of the foot is from the second toe to the centre of the heel. If we were to bring the heels together, the thighbones (femurs) would be outwardly rotated to a slight extent.

We start by establishing ujjayi breathing with a smooth and even sound. The ribcage expands evenly in all four directions and the bandhas are consciously engaged if they have not automatically been initiated with the breath. The inhalation reaches down in front of the spine and hooks into the pelvic floor, creating a lifting sensation from the centre of the perineum (mula bandha).

At the same time the lower abdominal wall, between the navel and the pubic bone, gently draws in towards the spine. The natural up-and-down movement of the diaphragm, and the accompanying movement of the upper abdomen or stomach area, are unrestricted.

The toes spread as one would spread one’s fingers, in order to completely awaken the feet. The weight of the body is placed above the ankles and equally distributes to all four corners of the feet the bases of the large and little toes and the inside and outside edges of the heels. The body weight is also evenly distributed between the inner and outer arches of the foot, while the arches are lifted and active. The action of the toes influences the pubic bone while the heels relate to the tailbone.

The fronts of the thighs are contracted, with the quadriceps pulling up the kneecaps. Quadriceps means four heads, referring to the four points of origin of this large muscle group. All four heads join into the common quadriceps tendon, which leads down to the shin. The kneecap (patella), a floating bone, is embedded within it.

Many students will have to tilt the pelvis posteriorly (backwards), which reduces any excess curvature in the low back and makes one stand taller. This movement is achieved by engaging the abdominal muscles, which lifts the pubic bone as the coccyx drops. The strength of the legs creates a vector of energy whose resonance is felt up the entire length of the body's core.

The front of the ribcage, the sternum, is lifted. One way of doing this is to pinch the shoulder blades together, which puffs the chest out as in a military posture of attention. This could lead to a hardening and closing of the area behind the heart.

Instead, as the heart is lifted, we broaden the area of the back behind the kidneys, and the shoulder blades widen and gently sink down the back. The shoulder blades flatten onto the back of the chest and support the elevated and open position of the heart area. The lower ribs in the front of the chest soften back in towards the body. The arms may need to be ‘looped’ in the shoulder joint to position the head of the arm bone so that it sits in the centre of the shoulder joint. These actions leave the chest open and broad in all directions. The ribcage and lungs are free to expand, facilitating a full, free-flowing breath.

The chin drops slightly while the ears move back in line with the shoulders. Drawing the
ears back in line with the shoulders corrects the common postural condition of a forward head, where the ears are positioned in front of the shoulders when viewed from the side.

To complete the picture, lift the highest point of the back of the head up towards the ceiling without losing the grounding of the feet. This action elongates and awakens the entire spine. Indian yogis have the exemplary tendency to humbly cast their gaze downwards in Samasthiti. T. Krishnamacharya suggested that not to look down is to lose one’s head.

The ideal alignment in Samasthiti is reached when all the major joints of the body - ankles, knees, hips and shoulders - align one above the other, creating a vertical line that also passes through the ears. This establishes a posture with the least resistance to the forces of gravity, making effortless standing a possibility.

Samasthiti is the blueprint for all other postures.

Allow lightness and balance to be your guide.