How Tree Pose Can Teach Us Balance
I’ve been teaching the Tree Pose or Vrksasana a lot recently.
It has always been one of my favourites - I am naturally drawn to the balancing poses in my own Yoga practice. I love the combination of strength and concentration that the pose demands, as well as the beauty of the human body when holding the Tree. It also gives me pleasure to watch my students increasing conﬁdence as they maintain their balance for longer each time.
To me, the Tree serves as reminder of our connection to Mother Nature and to the plants, ﬂowers, trees and beauty of Nature all around us. As such, it lends itself to being practised outside. In fact, the photo I used below was taken on the beach at Lytham Pier in North West England. It was an extremely windy but sunny day. My student Llanna was so still, you would never guess!
Tree Pose Essentials
The Tree is a pose to practise regularly but, in particular, when one is feeling insecure and shaky. It allows us to access the absolute stability and security of a tree, rooted in the earth. In the pose, we visualise the supporting foot setting down roots that allow our trunk to stay stable. The upper body, the branches, can then reach upward towards the sky.
It is vital that the whole of the standing foot is properly placed, and that its four points of connection with the earth ie. the big toe joint, the little toe joint, the inner and outer heel are all working together to maintain stability. The inner arch of the foot should be lifted. And then, once the foundation has been secured, the spine can lengthen and the arms rise up like the branches of a tree reaching towards the light. If this is not appropriate, simply keep the arms low and hands in Anjali mudra (prayer pose)
Beneﬁts of Tree Pose
Know that regular practice of Tree Pose will strengthen your legs, ankles and spine. It will also improve your physical balance. When the arms are lifted up, it will revitalise the body and open the mind to positive energy.
Tree Pose also teaches us the importance of balance and we can take this awareness into our everyday life. Healthy living demands that we are balanced in everything we do - not too little, not too much - and that, in every situation, we seek a place of balance and equanimity.
How To - Tree Pose
Stand in Mountain Pose. Transfer your weight to your right leg. Bend your left knee towards your chest. Now place your foot at the top of your inner right thigh with your toes pointing down. Turn your left knee out to the side. Keep the breath ﬂowing and steady. Find a spot on the opposite wall to keep the mind focused. Place your hands in Anjali mudra with your palms pressed together and the elbows out to the sides. Hold for 8 breaths. If you struggle with this, simply practise with your back against a wall for support.
Then, on an inhalation, raise your hands, still pressed together, above your head. Lift your sternum and lengthen through both sides of the trunk. Keep rooting deeply through your standing foot. Hold for 8 breaths. Lower and then repeat on the other side.
Imagine as you are standing there that you are receiving nourishment for your tree from the sunlight above your head and, in turn, receiving energy from the earth below your feet. Call to mind your mind your favourite tree in your favourite season.
Advanced Tree Pose
Another way of exploring Tree Pose is to close the eyes once the arms have been lifted overhead. The ankle of the supporting foot will begin to move back and forward in an attempt to keep you balanced. Having removed the visual cues to maintain your balance, you must now rely more on the body sense of itself in space, its so-called propriocentricity. Take four breaths before opening your eyes and then repeat on the other side.
Beyond the Mat
Practise Tree Pose regularly with commitment and focus. Look for areas in your life that are less than balanced and see whether you are able to achieve more equilibrium. In addition, use your regular Tree Pose practice to cultivate the ability to be fully present, doing one thing at a time and with your complete attention.
I would love to hear your experiences of Tree Pose.