“A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.”–Wangari Maathai
If you’ve ever sat underneath a tree, you can appreciate the steady support it offers. Emulating a tree can help us strike a balance between groundedness and expansion, rooting down and rising up. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explain what vrksasana is plus why you might want to add tree pose to your yoga practice.
What is Vrksasana?
Vrksasana (pronounced vrikshasana) is a balancing pose that involves standing on one leg with the sole of your foot pressing into the calf or inner thigh. In Sanskrit, vrksa translates to “tree,” while asana means “pose” or “seat”. Many ancient yoga poses were seated postures. As the practice developed, standing poses were introduced, but the seated, meditative aspect remained. With its calming and meditative benefits, vrksasana is like a standing variation of a seated meditation posture. Keeping calm and focused while balancing on one foot will teach you to sway gently like a tree in the wind, steady and sure no matter what the outside circumstances may be.
Benefits of Vrksasana
Practicing balancing poses, such as tree pose, will help you gain both physical and mental steadiness and poise. Vrksasana improves focus and concentration while calming your mind. This standing yoga pose is a hip opener that also stretches the thighs, groin, torso, and shoulders; strengthens the ankles and calves; and tones the abdominal muscles. It may even help remedy flat feet and is therapeutic for sciatica.
Most notably, tree pose improves your sense of balance and coordination. Regular practice will improve your focus and ability to concentrate in all areas of your life, particularly during times you feel off-balance, even outside of a yoga class. In addition to enhancing feelings of wellness, this yoga pose teaches the benefits of a meditative state of mind and is a gentle reminder that you can bring calm focus and clear-headedness to all situations.
How to Do Tree Pose
- Begin in mountain pose (tadasana), with your arms at your sides. Distribute your weight evenly across both feet, rooting down equally through your inner ankles, outer ankles, big toes, and baby toes.
- Shift your weight onto your left foot. Bend your right knee, then reach down and clasp your right inner ankle. Use your hand to draw your lifted foot alongside your inner left thigh. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only above or below it. Adjust your position so the center of your pelvis is directly over your left foot. Then, adjust your hips so your right hip and left hip are aligned.
- Rest your hands on your hips, and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Press your palms together in prayer position (anjali mudra) at your chest, with your thumbs resting on your sternum.
- Allow your eyes to rest on a drishti (gaze point).
- Draw down through your left leg. Press the sole of your right foot into your left thigh, while pressing your thigh against your foot.
- Inhale as you extend your arms overhead, reaching your fingertips to the sky. Rotate your palms inward to face each other. If your shoulders are more flexible, you can press your palms together overhead.
Hold for up to five breaths. To release the pose, step back into mountain pose. Repeat for the same amount of time on the opposite side.
Variations of Tree Pose
A great yoga pose for beginners and yogis of all levels, tree pose is a great way to gain balance, grace, and poise. You may find you’d like to deepen or lighten the pose. Try these simple changes to find a modification that works best for you:
- If you are unable to bring your foot to your thigh or calf muscle, bring it to the ankle of your standing leg. Rest the toes of your raised foot on the floor for extra support balancing.
- If you are feeling unsteady, try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for extra support. You can also practice with the wall next to the standing-leg side of your body, or use a chair and rest your hand on the back of the chair.
- For a greater challenge when your arms are overhead, close your eyes. Practice balancing without using the outside world for reference.
Contraindications of Vrksasana
Due to the balancing nature of the posture, do not practice tree pose if you are experiencing headaches, insomnia, low blood pressure, or if you are lightheaded or dizzy. Those with high blood pressure should not raise their arms overhead. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga and let your yoga teacher know.
In order to fully gain the meditative benefits of tree pose, it’s important to stay grounded and calm in the pose, while still maintaining alignment. Here are a couple of tips to help you stand as tall as a tree:
- Take your time. As with any balancing pose, it’s typically easier to come into the pose slowly and with awareness. If you enter the pose too quickly, you are more likely to lose your balance, which can make it more difficult to regain your balance.
- Work the pose from the ground up. Root down on all edges of the standing foot, and balance your weight entirely across your standing foot: the inner and outer ankles, big toe, and baby toe. Bring your awareness to the shin, calf, and thigh of your standing leg. Find alignment in your hips, tailbone, pelvis, and belly, then in your collarbones, shoulder blades, arms, and neck. Extend the pose through the crown of your head. Wait until you feel rooted and balanced before raising your arms overhead.
- To avoid injury, never rest the foot of your raised leg directly on your knee or at the side of your knee joint.
- To help with balancing, bring your awareness to the center line of your body (the vertical line that runs directly through the center of your head, neck, and torso).
By regularly practicing balancing poses, you can gain concentration, focus, poise, coordination, plus a steady and balanced mind. Tree pose connects you to the earth, as you root down through your standing foot. Meanwhile, feel the slight and gentle sway of your body, while maintaining the steadiness in the pose. Just like a tree in the breeze, you’ll grow in confidence, standing tall as you face life’s challenges with grace and ease.
How do you like to practice tree pose? Let us know in the comments below!
By Practyce Team
June 22, 2022