Tree pose reminds us to grow our roots along with our fruits. If a tree only grows fruit, it will become top heavy and fall over. If we focus only on external indicators of success, we will ultimately do the same. As your new year gets into full swing and you are sending your energy outwards towards your goals, remember to send some of it back inside, send some of it inward and down- where no one can see it. Send it where it will truly support you, where it will stabilize you and catch you when you sway.
The tree is one of the most beloved yoga poses of all time. While it has many physical benefits, such as cultivating balance and core strength, it is also refreshing to remember that the practice of yoga is about embodiment- not about “getting it right.” In moments where we are not just trying to catch our balance, it is nice to remember that the tree plays a sacred role in many traditions.
To Practice Tree Pose
Begin in Mountain Pose, take the time to feel your feet rooted into the ground. Gaze at a fixed point to secure your balance.
Pick your right foot up and place the bottom of the foot either just above the left inner ankle or just above the left inner knee. If you feel comfortable take a hold of the right foot, and place the the left foot all the way at the top of the thigh.
Draw the bent right leg backwards slightly, pausing before the hips become unlevel.
Either place your palms together at your heart or reach them up to the sky, at shoulder distance or pressed together.
Root down into your left foot to rise up into your fingertips.
Exit mindfully. Repeat on side 2.
Assuming the knee and ankle joints are healthy, Tree Pose is considered to be a relatively safe pose for most of the population. However, if you are experiencing any type of dizziness or vertigo, consider avoiding all balancing poses until that has passed.
Modifications + Variations
The most basic modification for Tree Pose, is to practice near a wall so the hands can reach for support. Next, feel free to have the bent leg foot still touching the ground for additional stability. So, if you are standing on the left leg and the right leg is to be lifted, the toes and ball of the right foot will ground into the floor with the right heel leaning on the left inner ankle. This will increase the size of your base and decrease the amount of elevated body weight to be balanced.
The variations on Tree Pose are endless. Your palms can rest at the heart, lift to the sky and hover shoulder distance, or stay elevated and pressed together. Other fun variations are to keep the palms elevated and pressed together, but to flip one of them so that the wrists cross just below the hands. You might also consider Prashtanjali Mudra, or Reverse Prayer so the prayer pose lands in between your shoulder blades. Lastly, another favorite variation is a bit more creative. Extend your arms up to 45 degree angles and allow them to move and stretch. Pretend that you are a tree, blowing in the wind, and that your arms are the swaying branches….