BALANCE SERIES #2: TREE POSE
What do you visualize when you think of a tree? Tall, strong, beautiful, rooted, gently swaying in the wind. Tree pose is the perfect pose to begin with because it is appropriate for any level yoga student. So this week’s post is centered on helping us find balance in our bodies through tree pose and extending it to our everyday lives. With regular practice you can improve focus, coordination and the ability to remain balanced, calm and centered even in the midst of whatever storm life may be sending your way.
From Mountain Pose (see, those foundational poses are important), bring your hands intentionally to heart center or prayer position. Start shifting your weight to balance on one leg. Bring your opposite foot to your standing ankle, calf or thigh. An important point here, only go as high as you feel comfortable.
Caution: do not stop on your knee. This will put too much pressure on the knee. Also, only bring your foot to the thigh if you can get it there without any help from the arms. Do not force the foot to the thigh and break that nice long neutral spinal alignment.
Height of the foot up the opposite leg will come with time and practice… or it won’t… but it is better to have proper spinal alignment than to try to look cool.
In keeping with that nice long neutral spine, your hips should stay level. This is particularly challenging to me. I have to constantly remind myself to keep my hip from jutting out.
From here your hand position can vary depending on what tree you are that day. You could bring your arms overhead like a tall pine. You could have cactus hands. You could bring your arms down by your side with palms facing forward (opening across your shoulders and chest). I call the last one the “weeping willow.” Or simply leave the hands at heart center. In the picture, I have my hands in prayer position. It looks like I’m leaning a little bit in the picture, but I’m standing on a pretty steep incline in my backyard – I would recommend you work on a flat surface.
As you try to hold the pose, slow your breath down, find a focal point and visualize yourself as a tree. You are tall, strong, beautiful, rooted, gently swaying in wind.
Have you ever been walking on uneven ground and turned an ankle or just plain fell on your face? I’m guessing the answer is a reluctant, “yes… yes, I have.” If I’m right about that, then striking a tree pose will help you build and activate those muscles.
Some other benefits of Tree Pose:
Stretches the thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders
Builds strength in the ankles and calves, which promotes balance
Tones the abdominal muscles
According to some websites, it can also help to remedy flat feet by working those foot muscles while you are trying to balance
Tree pose is great for athletes. Not only does it promote balance (much needed in any sport), it teaches you to visualize your goal. You see it. You do it. You own it.
Start slowly from the ground up. Stability can change daily. Consider all of the factors that contribute to balance such as hydration, alcohol consumption, sinus issues, inner ear issues and current medications, to name a few. Balance is also different from the right side of the body to the left side of the body, so you may be better at this pose on one leg than the other. That’s alright. Just keep practicing. Yoga is about self awareness. It is important to honor that. Accept where you are right now, not where you were ten years ago or where you think you should be.
Here is an article with a fun fact about balance.
As you practice Tree Pose you will gain balance in all areas of your life, not just on your mat, which will directly translate into fewer embarrassing (and potentially dangerous) moments when you take a dive because you lost your balance. You will learn how to slow your breathing, focus and remain calm and centered. Now that is transformation!
This is an exercise from DirtyYoga for men to help with balance. I love that this is out there.
I would love for you to leave a message or send a picture of your tree.