3 Ways to Plant Your Tree Pose

This entry was posted on Apr 27, 2018 by Charlotte Bell.

Tree PoseTrees are our partners in keeping this living, breathing planet alive. We inhale the oxygen that trees exhale, and they inhale the carbon dioxide we exhale. We are inextricably tied together.

Trees can also teach us about the importance of cultivating roots. While only the trunk, branches and leaves are usually visible to us, the roots of most trees are just as massive as what’s above ground. Knowing that this complex invisible root system is what keeps a tree upright can teach us about grounding our own bodies.

Vrksasana (Tree Pose) emulates the steady, rooted stance of a tree. When you practice, visualize your standing foot as the roots, your legs and torso as the trunk, your arms and upper leg as branches and your hands as the leaves. When you fully plant your standing foot, energy rebounds up your trunk, nourishing your branches and leaves.

Tree Pose strengthens and stabilizes the legs and hip joints. Practicing Vrksasana also helps us develop balance and concentration. We develop balance as we navigate standing on one leg, no matter whether we’re employing the help of the wall or free standing without a wall. Just the act of standing on one leg, which is not something we often do in daily life, teaches us the skill of balancing.

Concentration grows as we collect the mind onto the process of balancing. Tree Pose is especially helpful for those times when you feel agitated or scattered. The concentration required to stay upright helps to calm the mind and ground the body.

What follows are three ways to practice Tree Pose. Keep in mind that even if you are practicing with your hand on a wall or with a few toes on the floor, you are still developing the skill of balancing, and that is the point.

Tree Pose 3 Ways

Variation 1:

  1. Stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) on a yoga mat. Close your eyes and feel how your feet Tree Pose Variation 1are contacting the floor. Yield your weight into your feet and then root them into the floor.
  2. Shift your weight fully onto your right foot.
  3. Root your right foot as you bend your left knee and place your left foot into either the right inner thigh or the right calf. Avoid pressing your left heel into your right knee.
  4. Place your hands in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position).
  5. Continue to root your right foot as you breathe and relax.
  6. If your balance feels steady, ground your right foot as you raise your arms up toward the sky.
  7. Stay here, breathing deeply and planting your feet, for 5 to 10 breaths.
  8. Return to Mountain Pose. Take a few deep breaths, feeling your legs.
  9. Repeat on your other side.

Variation 2:

  1. If your balance feels shaky, place your right heel into your left ankle with a few toes touchingTree Pose Variation 2 the floor. Remember that practicing balancing poses helps you develop the skill of balancing. If practicing with a couple toes on the floor challenges your balance, but allows you to feel the steadiness of rooting, the pose is helping you develop the skill of balancing.
  2. Follow all the instructions for Variation 1, except for instruction #3. Instead place your left heel against your right ankle as described in the instruction immediately above (Variation 2, #1).
  3. Stay here, breathing deeply and planting your feet, for 5 to 10 breaths.
  4. Return to Mountain Pose. Take a few deep breaths, feeling your legs.
  5. Repeat on your other side.

Variation 3:

  1. If your balance feels shaky and Variation 2 doesn’t seem to be a good option for you, find a Tree Pose Variation 3wall (or a tree if you’re outdoors).
  2. Stand close enough to the wall so that you can easily use it for support if need be.
  3. Follow the instructions for Variation 1, but feel free to place a hand on the wall to stabilize your balance instead of practicing Anjali Mudra. It’s also an option to start close to the wall and only touch it—maybe with your elbow while your hands are in Anjali Mudra—if you start to feel shaky.

The more you practice balancing, the more you will notice how your body’s ability to balance changes from day to day. As you practice, make adjustments, practicing any of the variations. Remember that in any of these variations, you are challenging your balance and therefore, developing the ability to balance.

Vrksasana can help you start your morning with a collected mind, or calm you at the end of a stressful day. Practice with your roots firmly planted so that your trunk, branches and leaves can bloom.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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