One of the most iconic postures that most people, practitioners of yoga asana or not, will quickly identify as a yoga pose, is vrksasana.
As a balancing posture, it requires strength, stability, focus, and proprioception, and it can be fun for some, as well as very frustrating for many.
In this article, we invite you to learn more about Vrksasana, the tree pose, its benefits, and how you can explore a wide variety of tree pose variations in order to expand your practice and make it more diverse and accessible.
- Basic Anatomy of Tree Pose
- Benefits of Tree Pose
- How to Practice Tree Pose
- Reasons to Explore Tree Pose Variations
- Standing Tree Pose Variations
- Tree Pose Variations with Props
- Other Tree Pose Variations
Basic Anatomy of Tree Pose
In Sanskrit Urdhva Vrksasana, which means upward tree pose, is often simply referred to as Vrksasana, or tree pose.
It is a standing, balancing posture, it is commonly seen in hatha yoga practices and is considered a foundational asana.
It is an asymmetrical yoga posture since both sides of the body are performing different movements.
Benefits of Tree Pose
Although the list of benefits for this balancing posture, here are some of the main ones that you can reap if you incorporate tree pose into your yoga practice:
- Improves Concentration
- Enhances balance
- Builds strength in the lower body
- Helps build self-esteem and confidence
- Invokes grounding and connection
How to Practice Tree Pose
1. To practice tree pose, first, come onto the top of your mat, and find tadasana, mountain pose.
2. Bring your palms together in front of your heart, in Anjali mudra, and start to draw energy toward the midline of the body.
3. Bring your dristhi, your gaze, somewhere right in front of you, or a bit lower toward the ground for more stability.
4. Take a moment to notice the surface of your feet on the ground or the yoga mat, and start to shift your weight into your right foot, engaging pada bandha.5. Notice if your right knee locks up or hyperextends, and make an effort to soften it a bit, engaging the muscles of your leg instead to create more stability.
6. Inhale, lift your left heel off the floor, shifting the weight toward the ball of your left foot.
7. Exhale, and turn your knee out to the side, keep your hips square to the front.
8. Stay there for a few breaths if that feels sufficient.
9. Lower the left foot back down onto the ground, shake it out, and try it all over again on the other side.
Tips For Tree Pose
- Feel the energy from the standing foot, up through the left leg, and up the spine, all the way up to the crown of your head.
- If you want to play with your balance more, take your free foot, the left, and bring the sole to the inner side of your calf, below the knee.
- If you rather open up through your left hip a bit more and perhaps challenge your balance further, slide your foot higher up or grab the ankle with your hand, always skipping the knee, and place the sole of your left foot firmly onto your inner thigh.
- When your foot is sliding down, try pressing your left foot more firmly onto your right inner leg, as you press your right inner leg more firmly toward the left foot, drawing the energy to the midline.
- Traditionally, the hands in Vrksasana stay either in front of the heart or you can lift them up overhead. Explore both tree pose variations and see which one you enjoy best.
- Take a few breaths in the pose, noticing the balance, the wobble, and everything in between!
Here is a video to practice the most common variation of the tree pose:
Reasons to Explore Tree Pose Variations
Vrksasana in its traditional form is included in many modern yoga sequences and is often considered a beginner or foundational asana.
With all that we have already discussed, however, you may have noticed that it requires balance, strength, and stability of the lower body, core, and torso.
There are many folks with a wide range of needs including but not limited to the list below, that can truly benefit from the exploration of tree pose variations beyond the traditional shape:
- For people with larger or non-normative bodies
- For those with disabilities
- For those recovering from an injury or illness
- For different moods or purposes of a practice
By choosing to explore tree pose variations you are making the yoga practice more accessible for yourself as well as for others, and it truly matters.
Standing Tree Pose Variations
Here are some tree pose variations to inspire you to get creative and explore postures in new ways that can potentially be more supportive for you.
1# Tree pose with the toes on the ground
For people with balance challenges or that would like to stay more grounded, and keep both feet on the floor, practice tree pose with the free foot resting on the standing foot; toes and ball of the foot on the ground, and the heel resting on the inner ankle.
2# Tree pose with the foot on the inner lower leg
For the same purposes of increased stability and staying more grounded, as well as reducing de amount of external rotation needed on the free hip, consider placing your free foot lower on the inner leg.
3# Tree pose with half lotus
For deeper external rotation, practice tree pose with the free foot in half lotus. To add some upper body challenge, you could even add the opposite arm wrapped around the back, catching the toes or ankle.
4# Tree pose with hands in front of the heart
Although supposedly, the pose is traditionally practiced with the arms overhead, feel free to keep your hands in Anjali mudra in front of the heart to stay more grounded and less wobbly.
5# Tree pose with reverse Anjali Mudra
To add a shoulder stretch, bring your hands behind your back and explore the reverse prayer position (Paschim Namskarasana).
6# Tree pose with a side bend
For a lateral stretch and testing your equilibrium, explore leaning toward the floating leg.
7# Tree pose with figure 4
For those looking for a deep IT band stretch, try creating a figure 4, and bend your standing leg as much as you’d like until you feel some sensation.
8# Tree pose with the hand on the knee
As a way to switch it up, grab your free knee with your hand, and play around with the possibilities.
Tree Pose Variations with Props
Grab your blocks, a strap, and a chair, and explore some of these unique tree pose variations.
9# Tree pose with the free foot in a block
If you’d like to elevate the free foot and still want some support, put your free foot on any of the three possible settings of a block.
10# Tree pose with a hand on the wall
An easy way to assist yourself in the pose is by using a nearby wall. That can potentially help you explore a wider variety of tree pose variations that you may not have access to without the support of the wall.
11# Tree pose with a strap
Loop your strap, bring it around your waist, and place your free knee in the loop, to find support if your foot tends to slide down.
12# Tree pose seated on a chair
Using a chair makes the pose accessible to more folks.
13# Tree pose seated on a chair with a block under the foot
If the free foot doesn’t reach the floor, place a block on any of the three possible settings underneath that foot.
14# Tree pose with figure 4 seated on a chair
Seat on a chair and cross your ankle over the opposite knee.
Other Tree Pose Variations
Here are a few more ways to practice tree pose.
15# Tree pose supine on the ground
To practice laying down, or for a more restorative style, consider practicing the shape in any of its standing variations, simply laying down on the back.
16# Tree pose in Vashistasana
A fun way to practice tree pose on a different plane is by taking it into a side plank. It can be quite challenging and worth exploring, make sure you warm up your wrists well.
#17 Tree pose variation in Adho Mukha Vrksasana (headstand)
For those into inversions try bringing the position of the legs that you would use for tree pose, into your headstand practice.
Tree pose is a foundational balancing pose included in a variety of yoga practices and styles.
With tree pose variations we can find new ways to explore the pose that are more accessible and help us reap the many benefits of this yoga asana.
Not all the variations will work for everyone, so please, explore mindfully and discard whatever doesn’t feel right for you.
To learn more about other balancing postures, read this piece next.