Tree Pose (Vrikshasana), ( VRIK-shAH-suh-nuh)
vriksha (tree) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Vrikshasana
Pose Type: Strengthening, Balancing, Standing
Root down like a tree in Tree Pose and find equal parts strength and balance within yourself to hold yourself firm and steady.
Tree Pose Fundamentals
Root deep and lift tall like a tree in with foundational standing balance pose. Tree pose will teach you to simultaneously ground with your standing leg, and lift, by keeping your core engaged.
The pose is ideal for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding and connection with their body. It requires constant awareness, for you to stay stable and balanced. On the other hand – it will also encourage you to stay humble and honest with yourself. Listening to your body and accepting your limits will make sure you’re getting the most out of this pose.
The standing foot does most of the strength work in this pose, but keeping your core engaged and pelvis neutral is just as important. Focus on these areas rather than prioritizing lifting the other leg as high as you can.
The oldest record of a position similar to Tree Pose was found in Indian city Mahabalipuram, where it was carved in stone. It is believed advanced yogis challenged themselves by standing on one leg when they meditate. Meanwhile, the first written description was created 10 centuries later, in the renowned yoga manual Gheranda Samhita.
Today, it is one of the most iconic yoga poses, and is often used to represent the practice. And it’s a good choice – Tree Pose shows one of the key elements of yoga – connecting to the ground and oneself, to become able to lift and elevate one’s energy to a higher state of consciousness.
Tree, unsurprisingly, is connected to many myths and stories in all religions, including Hinduism. One of those stories is related to the epic Ramayana. In the story, Lord Rama’s wife Sita sheltered under the Ashoka Tree, waiting for her husband to save her. This tree symbolizes the God of Love, and Hindus pray to the tree when they want to be saved from grief – just like Sita was rescued by love when her husband finally arrived, and put an end to her sorrow. In general, trees often represent love and devotion in Indian culture.
In the same manner, one can practice Tree Pose, whenever they feel they’ve lost touch with themselves and are going through a period of sorrow. It’s a powerful pose that brings a sense of confidence and inner peace.
In a more literal manner, the pose was named as the balancing foot represents the roots of a tree, and the extended arms appear as branches. You can practice it with that simple, yet mighty intention. Try imitating the quiet, still, and calm nature of a tree.
Just like a tree remains stable through changing seasons, you can find a calm space in yourself that isn’t shaken by any changes you go through in day-to-day life. This creates the same sense of devotion as is described in the aforementioned story of Sita.
Tree Pose & The Chakra System
On the energetic level, you can use the practice of Tree Pose to move your energy upwards, from the Root Chakra to Crown Chakra, and back down again, to create harmony within your body. With your body in balance, you will feel the same sense of steadiness in your mind.
Tree Pose Benefits
- Strengthens the standing leg and core.
- Stretches the feet, hips, knees, and arms.
- Improves your sense of balance and increases stability in the joints.
- Prepares the body for other balancing positions, like Eagle Pose.
- The action of stretching the arms upwards opens the chest and helps you to breathe more deeply. Using your lungs more efficiently, you will also feel more focused and steady in the pose.
- The pose may help in mindfulness, as you need to stay present and focused on your breath to hold it.
- Working on achieving perfect alignment in this pose will aid you in also improving your postural habits off the mat.
- Allows you to work on your energy, by opening your body and working on both grounding and lifting.
- If you focus on your breath, you will ease overthinking and calm the nervous system. This action may help you when you feel symptoms of stress and anxiety.
- Improves your ability to focus, which you can transfer to other aspects of your life.
How To Do Tree Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin in Mountain Pose. Take a moment here to build a firm foundation – spread your toes wide, engage your leg muscles, and sway side to side and front to back to find a central position.
2. Slightly tuck in your pelvis and engage the core, particularly your lower abs. With an inhale, lift your chest and draw your shoulders back and down.
3. Find a steady point in front of you to fix your gaze upon.
4. With your hands on your hips, raise your left foot and place it on the inner right thigh.
5. When you feel stable, extend your hands towards the sky and join them in the Prayer position overhead. If that makes you lose stability, you can also place them in Prayer position on your heart.
6. Hold for 3-5 breaths, then release back into Mountain Pose. Exchange one deep inhalation and exhalation, then repeat the pose on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- You can place your foot anywhere on the standing leg, just avoid pressing it directly into the knee.
- Engage your core and your standing leg to create one straight line from your foot all the way up to the top of your head.
- You can play with different arm positions. We mentioned two options in the steps above (Prayer pose on the heart or above the head), but you can also extend your arms wide, place them behind your back in Reverse Prayer, or keep them on your hips for more stability.
- Use drishti – steady gaze – to help you find balance. Any still point in front of you will work. Alternatively, you can also challenge your balance more by closing your eyes.
- Some clothes can be slippery, making it difficult to hold the raised leg in place. If that’s the case, roll up your pants to allow the foot to touch your skin directly.
- Don’t lock the knee of the standing leg. It should be extended, but keep it soft.
- Press the foot of the standing leg into the floor and spread the toes to feel stable in the pose.
- If you fall from the pose or need some time to find stability, don’t give up. Be patient with yourself, and try again.
Tree Pose Variation:
Tree Pose Variation: Tree Pose With Foot On The Ground
This variation is ideal for beginners, those with limited flexibility in the legs, and anyone else who wants a more gentle variation of the pose. To perform the modification, simply keep your toes on the ground and place the heel next to the ankle of the standing leg.
Tree Pose Variation: Tree Pose Against A Wall
If it’s difficult to find stability in the pose, practice against a wall.
There are multiple ways you can use a wall to practice. You can stand next to a wall and simply press it with one hand for support. You can also stand in front of the wall and lean your shoulders and hips into it (your low back should be away from the wall to maintain the natural curve of your spine). Simply standing next to a wall may give you more confidence, as you can use it to get back to the pose if you lose balance.
Tree Pose Variation: Supine Tree Pose
Supine Tree Pose is a restorative version of this asana. Although you won’t work on your balance, it is great for building the flexibility, strength and body awareness needed for holding a full Tree Pose.
To perform this variation, lie on your back. Keep your feet together and place your hands on your hips. Engage your core and lift both legs slightly off the ground. With your legs still lifted, slide one leg up the thigh of the opposite leg, just like you would for Tree Pose. Hold the pose for at least 5 breaths, and release. Repeat the same steps on the other side.
Precautions & Contraindications:
One Hip Opening To The Side. Although this pose stretches your hips, you should still ensure the hip of the lifted leg doesn’t open out to the side. Keep your hips square – even if that means you need to move the lifted knee slightly inward.
Placing the Foot On The Knee. You can place the lifted foot anywhere on the other leg, except the knee. Pressing into your knee makes it vulnerable and destabilizes your leg.
Being Passive. Make sure you are actively engaging your muscles, particularly the muscles of the standing leg and your core. This is key for maintaining stability and good alignment.
Injuries and Surgery
Avoid the pose if you have an injury related to the hips, ankles, shoulders, and knees. Also avoid if you have vertigo, migraine, and arthritis in the joints of the lower body. Finally, if you have high blood pressure, practice with your hands down instead of extending them overhead.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
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