Vrksasana…or Tree Pose

The first Yogis looked at the world around them and understood the natural, effortless way in which everything in nature moved and accomplished the fulfillment of its purpose. This realization led to the development of Yoga and its many obvious benefits. It is easy when trying to balance for long periods, or attempting a new pose, to forget that at its core, Yoga mimics the natural world. Our journey in Yoga is one of remembering (I know, I say it all the time) how to be flexible, and remembering the harmony of being which is our heritage. One of my favourite poses which remind me of many of Yoga’s benefits is the Tree Pose.

The Tree

Tree pose when performed correctly will help alleviate sciatica, reduce flat feet, and cultivate a greater sense of balance. This pose will also strengthen the quadriceps, thighs, calves, spine, and ankles – along with stretching the groin, chest, shoulders and inner thighs. Before considering this posture, be aware if you suffer from low blood pressure or high blood pressure. If you suffer from high blood pressure, do not raise your arms above your head. Headaches or insomnia occasionally may result when first performing this pose due to various factors, but this is very rare.

Starting in Tadasana or Mountain Pose, shift your weight to the left foot and leg. Spread your toes and make sure your metatarsals are flat on a smooth surface free of unevenness. Remember to keep your toes spread and relaxed throughout the pose and do not scrunch them up.

Bending down, grasp the right ankle with the right hand. Place the sole of your right foot as high as possible on the inner left thigh, insuring your toes are pointed down the leg towards the floor. Lifting the quadriceps of the left leg will allow your right heel to get a better grip on the inner left leg muscles and help prevent your heel from slipping down. Focusing your gaze on a point at the same height as your eyes on a wall or somewhere else near you will help you maintain your balance.

Pelvis Alignment

For most, when you bring your right foot into position, the right knee is forward from your hips. Concentrate on gently forcing the right knee back towards alignment with your hips, or as near as is comfortable without strain. In order to gain the most benefit from the groin stretch that this pose involves, it is important to move the right knee back as opposed to bringing the left hip forward. Throughout the pose, stay aware of your hip alignment from side to side as well, making sure the left hip is not sitting higher than the right.

Breathe! Allow your weight to sink through your tailbone and lift your chest while leaving the shoulders relaxed. Exhale and extend your arms overhead as high as is comfortable while avoiding bending the elbows. Place your palms together as you extend to your comfort level. Keep your gaze focused on a point as previously mentioned – it will greatly assist in your balance. If you are well accustomed to Tree Pose, try increasing your time you maintain the pose for minutes while maintaining slow, steady breathing. Slowly lower your arms into a prayer position as you return to Tadasana, then release and repeat on the other leg.

Safe Variation

If you are having troubles initially, or there are health issues that are of concern with this position, Tree Pose may also be performed while lying down. Lie down and place your feet on the wall as if you were going to perform a horizontal Mountain Pose. Follow the same steps as if you were standing – working the bent knee out and down to the floor without bringing the opposing hip forward.

Rooted, yet Flexible

Perform the Tree Pose under or beside a big tree if you can. You are rooted in the ground as the tree, reaching branches and leaves (arms) towards the sun to receive its healing, nourishing light. Feel the energy of the Earth flowing upward into your body, mixing and coalescing with the energy of the sun you are drawing in from your outstretched form. While in tree pose, contemplate the nature of trees in general; their steadfastness through storms, bending when necessary, yet remaining firmly anchored and balanced. For an extra challenge, perform Tree Pose on a windy day next to a tree!

Namaste, my friends…

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