Finding neutral—or what I call coming home to your body—is a practice of its own. What is your neutral? No matter what part of the body we’re talking about, it’s good to know the answer to this question, so you don’t keep returning to a position that doesn’t serve you or your yoga practice. There are lots of differing opinions about what constitutes a neutral position. Mountain Pose describes a neutral standing position: easily resting upright, stacked up in gravity, and bearing weight on centered, balanced feet. A second neutral position can be easily found in Corpse Pose: lying horizontal, resting out of gravity, and fully supported with your arms open.
Take a moment to consider if one of these positions supports your health and helps you find a sense of calm. Can you feel yourself comfortably resting and happy in Mountain pose or Corpse pose? Or are the neutrals you experience in these poses not actually neutral for you—therefore creating anxiety or draining your energy?
A lot of yogis and yoginis paying attention to what they do in practice, but not to what they’re doing the rest of the time. How do you sit? How do you stand? When you bend down to pick up something, do you return to an easy, upright neutral? Connecting to your own neutral will help you move from a place of structural integration as you practice yoga poses—and as you move off your yoga mat.
One key to fully stepping into your true resting neutral, or at-the-ready neutral—rather than something in-between—is learning how to access the balls of your feet. In mountain pose, allow your toes to rest lightly on the floor, like a piano player’s fingers rest on the keys before playing. When you’re standing upright, your toes may exhibit a slight prehensility, gripping the earth lightly but without grasping.
If your toes habitually lift off the floor in standing poses, this is an indication of a malfunction in your feet or lower legs; some tension is pulling up the toes. See if you can let your toes go, or try some ball work on the muscles in your calves, which can help those poor, overworked toes to relax. Keep in mind, however, that when you’re standing with your toes on the ground, they shouldn’t exhibit a white-knuckle grip. Your weight should be distributed between your heels, the balls of your big toes, and the balls of your little toes—similar to that of a three-legged stool–with an arch in between each of these three points.
Mountain pose is such a deep and worthwhile pose to practice (and practice, and then practice some more). If you can find true neutral in this pose—and you can carry this knowledge off the mat and into how you move and stand throughout your daily life—it will have long-term benefits for your physical and psychological well-being.