Tree Pose is often among the first standing, balancing postures we learn in yoga. It is practiced in many, many classes, and eventually can become like an old friend: Reliable, predictable, welcoming. And just like with an old friend, the more comfortable we are, the more casual or haphazard we might get. It’s easy, over time, to get kind of bored with Tree Pose.
Autumn is just the time to fall in love with Vrikshasana all over again.
Like the glorious maples, oaks and beech trees that will soon display brilliant fall foliage, Vrksasana (pronounced vrick-sha-sana) evokes rooted strength and grace. The kind of strength that — because it is firmly planted — will last through the hardship of winter, along with the grace to bend in the breeze, but not break. These are quite a powerful collection of attributes that could be applied in all areas of life.
Tree Pose teaches us to:
Stand firmly and find our roots, so that we may not easily be diminished or knocked over
Establish a solid foundation that will nourish us and support all our endeavors
Bend but not break, learning to be supple, yielding where necessary so as not to “snap”
Cultivate balance, standing on one foot, which is increasingly important as we age
Develop the muscle of our attention; balancing postures require resolute focus, which comes in handy at work, at home, with family, in conversations and during all sorts of tasks
Physically, Tree Pose stretches and strengthens at the same time. Muscles are gently but effectively toned in the calves, thighs and back, while the chest, shoulders and groin are stretched. Plus, Vrikshasana has been shown to relieve sciatica!
So the next time you’re in class and it’s time for tree pose, greet this asana like an old friend you’re thrilled to see again!
Here are a few tips, tricks or modifications to greet Vrksasana with enthusiasm and curiosity:
Feet: Remember to always place the lifted foot either above or below your knee – never right on the knee. Gentle pressure from the sole of the foot into the leg, and the leg right back into the sole of the foot. If you’re used to practicing with the foot above the knee, try placing it against the calf for a change… you may find it’s harder than you think!
Hips: Check out your hip points and try to level them, making sure one isn’t hitched up much higher than the other
Balance: Find a Drishti or focal point that isn’t moving on the wall ahead of you or ahead and slightly above. Using this point to focus on might improve your balance. Once you feel steady, challenge yourself by trying to close your eyes
Arms: Begin with Anjali mudra (prayer hands) and when you feel stead and ready, extend the arms up to the variation that’s comfortable for you. Again, once you’re steady have a bit of fun… imagine a breeze blowing and gently sway with it. Now imagine a storm….
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