In the ‘families of poses’ that comprise standing poses, seated poses, abdominals, forward and backward bends, inversions, and restorative poses – standing poses are stand-outs because of their all-round utility.
Yoga teachers love standing poses
1. Standing poses are great warm-ups for the hips, spine, legs, and arms, as they don’t unduly stress the student. Also, they are fairly easy to remember and can be replicated in home practice, even by beginners.
2. Students can usually stay in the poses long enough for the teacher to convey other information than just the physical adjustments to be made, i.e., how to approach the postures: observing the breath, being non-competitive, and practising effortless effort.
3. Nevertheless, this family of poses is demanding in its own way – simple but not easy. Standing poses can be taught at every level, from beginners to advanced. They get the student moving, too, when he or she is scatty or even lazy.
4. Standing poses give fairly immediate feedback about how a student is travelling at any given time. Is the sense of balance shaky? Are the legs dull? Is the mind overactive? Because the poses make one feel more open and free in the body straightaway, the student is more likely to want to persevere in practising yoga.
5. There’s a logic to the poses.The emphasis on being grounded in one’s feet in Tadasana is foundational in Trikonasana and Virabhadrasana 2. The student learns to build on the base they’ve established to strengthen and extend the legs and hips. In Virabhadrasana 1, once the base is established,then the arms, rib cage, spinal column and pelvic/abdominal region can be integrated. Eventually everything comes together, and when attention wanes, then the student can go through building the pose again from the feet to the head.
6. The standing poses allow for creation of symmetry between the two sides of the body, between the upper and lower, inner organs and outer organs. This happens by connecting intelligence with the body, and this process can be as illuminating as the practice of dharana – yogic concentration – leading to a feeling of peace.
7. Finally, the standing poses can relieve tiredness even when that outcome seems counterintuitive.
A short sequence from a class with Prashant Iyengar (1984)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Trikonasana – x 2 (Triangle Pose)
Parvritta Trikonasana – x 2 (Twisting Triangle)
Parsvakonasana – x 2 (Side Flank Stretch)
Virabhadrasana II, I and III – x 2 (Warrior II, I, III)
Prasarita Padottanasana – (Wide-leg forward fold pose)
Janu Sirsasana – x2 each side (Head to knee pose)