//Vrksasana: Tree Pose
At the moment, life is moving in all sorts of directions. Providing me with the opportunity, let’s be real, the challenge, of staying tuned into my center. New opportunities and life changes that are worthy of pursual have the habit of arriving all at the same time. Keeping in alignment with my center, my truth, during the busier times of my life is a two-part act. Part one is being honest, and part two is being balanced. In that order. I have found, more often than not, that it is a very fine line between utter balanced bliss and fulfillment, and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed and out of sorts by the amount of to-dos. We will always shift and move between both existences, back and forth, side to side, to some extent. With a little self-awareness, honesty, and compassion for our journey we can dwell in our center and maintain our balance.
The featured pose for this month, vrksasana, tree pose, teaches us just that, to be honest and to find a center at which we can balance from. The full expression of tree pose is a difficult position requiring physical strength, flexibility, and mental fortitude. To be firmly rooted in our standing leg with a sense of grace and gentleness, we may need to face some realities depending upon our physical abilities and our sense of concentration. These realities will lead us to make modifications to this position to suit where we are when we are there. We all know the feeling of trying to force ourselves into a posture or experience that we are not ready for, but that we desperately want, at least I do. The breath becomes short and often times is lost, and my being is focused on achievement rather than experiencing. This is part one: honesty. As we enter into this posture and every other yoga posture, and, really, any experience in life, we can cultivate a sense of truthfulness. Existing in what is, rather than an imagined reality. It is hard to hide in tree posture from the truth. When we are not ready, it will show us, again and again. When I am honest in my yoga practice and in my life, I have a greater ability to discern what is too much, what is enough, and when it is time to add something else in.
When truthfulness is a part of tree posture, we can better establish balance. After honesty, the key to balance is the focus, also known as the drishti. This is a point of focus that is not moving or changing and it is not another person or creature. In the yoga practice on the mat it is a point directly ahead. Off of the mat, it maintains the same markers. It does not move, it is an unchanged constant. It is found deep within. It is the deepest why or purpose to what we do. When we know our purpose and are firmly rooted in our truth, we are better able to discern where to allocate our energy out in order to live into that truth and to keep it alive. A tree knows that in order to keep its truth alive it only needs to do two tasks. It must root into the soil and gather water, and it must extend its branches towards the sun and collect carbon dioxide for food. By doing just those two things it has fulfilled its purpose. The tree is not focused on the outcome of oxygen, but it is focused on maintaining being a tree, and in doing so, it has given the world’s creatures life. When I find my focus, my inner compass to being, I am in better harmony of feeding into myself and feeding out of myself. I am in balance.
If you are interested in learning how to do tree and variations that may suit your body, where it is now, read on and experience the benefits of developing truthfulness and balance.
Begin by standing in tadasana. Notice how your body feels here with your feet firmly planted into the ground, spine long, and chest open. Become aware of how, even on two feet, your body is finding its balance, how it is naturally swaying from side to side, forward and back.
Shift your weight into your left leg. Bend your right knee as you reach down with your right hand to grab your right ankle. Place the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left thigh. Make sure that your right foot is not on your left knee, it should be above it. If available to your body, place the right heel into the inner left groin with your right toes pointing down to the ground.
Place your hands on your hips. Make sure that you are not sinking into the left hip. Instead, lift out of the left hip, creating length through the left side of your body.
Place your hands at heart center with your palms together. Focus your gaze on a single point that is not moving or changing, your drishti. You can keep your hands at heart center, or you can lift them up and over your head.
Remain in this posture for 5-10 breaths. Return the right leg to the floor and hold in tadasana for a moment before switching to the second side.
Tree pose is a challenging posture that requires an immense about of balance and hip flexibility. Here are some variations that may make tree pose more approachable for your body. Remember our body is one of our greatest teaches, listen to it, and make modifications where you need to in your yoga practice to best support it.
- Take tree pose on the ground reclined on your back. This will eliminate the challenge of balance, but will help increase hip flexibility and awareness of how this posture feels in your body.
- Take tree pose with your back up against the wall. Like the reclined tree, this variation will help reduce the stress of balance and help increase hip flexibility.
- If you are ready to move away from the wall, but not ready to lift your foot up and off of the ground, kickstand your foot against your balancing leg. If you are balancing on your left leg, kickstand your right foot so that the ball of your foot is on the ground, firmly planted, and the heel of your right foot is placed just above your ankle.
- If you are ready to lift your leg up and off the floor, but do not yet have the hip flexibility to lift your foot to your inner groin, then this option is a midway point for you. If you are balancing on your left leg, lift your right leg up and place the sole of your right foot under your left knee, do not place your foot on your knee.
- In any of these standing variations, it is always an options to have a chair beside you, so that you can hold onto the back of the chair while you are balancing.
If you are ready for a little bit more of a challenge in this position, then I would suggest to close your eyes. With your eyes closed, continue to focus on a drishti, on something internal that does not move or change, your constant.
- Avoid this posture if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Low blood pressure
- High blood pressure (if you have high blood pressure, you can still do this posture, just do not raise your hands up and over your head).