Tree pose or Vrksasana, is a standing balancing pose that challenges focus and body awareness. Pay close attention to how you feel when attempting any balancing pose. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. Just like with any pose, the goal is not the pose itself, but finding ourselves within the pose. There are many different types of trees, find a way to express your version.
Start in mountain pose, ground through your feet. The feet are our connection points in standing poses, so use your inhales to pull energy up from your feet and exhales to push energy back down to help with stabilization. Shift your weight onto one foot and raise the opposite heel. Feel yourself getting heavy in your standing leg and lightening on your raised leg. Bring your lifted heel toward your ankle, ball of the foot rest on the ground, open your knee and hip out on your raised leg.
[If theres more]
Bring your foot onto any part of your leg that you like, other than the heel on the knee.
When you find the foot position along the side of your standing leg that you like, press your foot into your leg and your leg into your foot. Your standing leg is the new “ground” for your raised foot, so you’re creating the connection.
On exhales draw low belly up and in, shoulders are down, chest is lifted. Your head and neck are neutral with your spine.
Arms can be where ever you feel most stabile and strong. Some common placements are; hands on hips, palms at hearts center, arms outstretched by sides or arms outstretched overhead.
Tips and tricks:
If you like movement, try swaying your arms while you’re in tree. Feel like you‘re blowing with the wind.
You are not stable when you balance, you are seeking stability when you balance. Movement is going to happen, small tweaks and twitches, slight sways and shifts. Your body is constantly making adjustments because you’re balancing. The calm stillness happens in your mind when you trust your body to keep up upright, but it takes practice! Focus on your breath in this pose, if it helps, find a focal point (Dristi) help focus your mind on something not moving.
For Tree prep, focus on the press down in your feet in mountain pose. Standing is balancing, but likely you don’t remember all the trial and error you had to go through to learn to stand. Focus on activating your pelvic floor on exhales and being able to activate your core. Learn the posture of your Tree while both feet are on the ground. Shoulders down, chest lifted, feeling yourself lifting out the top of your head.
Before attempting Tree, it’s preferable to warm your hips up. Depending on your practice you may prefer more static or dynamic types of warming up. Static ways would be coming into other hip opening type poses, such as Warrior 2, and holding the pose. Dynamic ways would involve moving or flowing in hip opening poses, such as window washer. There are a lot of different options to get your hips ready for tree pose, talk with your yoga teacher before or after class if you have any questions about what could be helpful to add into your practice.
You can use a block underneath your raised foot, instead of raising your heel or you can be on the ball of your foot on the block.
You can use a strap around your shin and the top of your hip to help bring your foot further up your leg, or if you want to take some of the pressure away from the foot to leg connection. If you’d like to challenge yourself, try standing on a blanket, progressively more folded, to give you a more uneven surface to find your balance on. You can use a chair to hold on to, or a wall. On a wall I’d recommend either facing the wall (so you can put your hands on it, if you feel like you’ll fall forward) or facing the opposite direction to the wall (if you feel like you’ll fall back) just to help maintain the upright position in your body, instead of leaning to get the wall on one side or the other, but it’s your practice, so you know what you need.
Play around with balancing and notice how you feel about attempting to balance. Have fun with this pose and discover your tree.