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Yoga 101: Vrkasana, Tree Posture

Find your tree and grow anew for winter.

Last week we found for the fall season. How apropos that we find physical balance with our newest posture, vrkasana, (pronounced vrik-shah-sa-na) or tree pose. 

Using our breath (), or gaze (), and the posture of tree, we will have the tools to help us not only stand on one foot, but feel the roots of our metaphorical bodies and in that find strength and acceptance for our whole self. If we accept our limitations, then it is easier to find our truth. Finding truth in our approach to practicing this posture and finding the joy within it is the best part of the journey, so don’t rush into trying to do the full version just yet.

Perhaps today was a stressful day, in your mind you know you can do this posture, but today the truth is, you need a variation to help you find true balance in yourself and the posture. This daily acceptance of ourselves and our practice will help us root, rise and grow freely into this posture like a graceful live oak.

Always have clearance from your health and wellness provider or physician before taking on any new physical activities.

Before we begin, know that our own mind chatter and visual distractions can affect how well we hold this posture, and balancing posture can stir up a lot of psychological resistance. If you can acknowledge your own inner chatter, then you will be more prepared to let it go! I also suggest that you, with the help of our  series, begin your practice with and a brief centering of yourself using your breathing.

Otherwise, start in , the mountain pose, begin , or three-part breath, and find your center. Clearing is important when approaching balancing postures because you don’t want to be distracted, especially by your mind chatter. Concentration on your breathing helps.  

Then find your , a point on the ground in which you can hold your gaze. Usually, a foot or two in front of you is perfect. The higher your gaze, the tougher it is to hold your concentration, so look on the ground.
Then, separate your feet just a little and bring the weight into the left foot.
Shift the weight to the bottom foot, finding tadasana in the foot and the leg, and then lift your right foot up off the ground just a couple of inches.

At this point, you can choose from a variety of foot placements, knowing that there is an awareness and engagement of both feet pressing into resistance. As the grounded foot is rooting through all four corners of the foot, the lifted foot is pressing into the inner thigh, calf or opposite foot.
We want to feel the center of the body root, too. From the middle of the pelvic floor through the center of your spine and the crown of your head, you want to feel your body lifting upward toward the sky, sun and stars.

Variations of Vrkasana

This first variation, supta vrkanasna, is the easiest expression of the posture. Lying on your back, placing the feet on the wall and finding tadasana will help you understand how this posture will feel standing to balance (see photo with detailed explanation of pose).

Use a wall and try all the variations. 

Place one foot on top of the other with the back of the heel against the ankle. You can also try this pose with the toes of your top foot along the side of the bottom foot. Your knee should point toward the side of your body and down.

Bring the foot onto the inner calf (avoid the inner knee). Again, the knee is pointed to the side of the body and might be pointed down. This downward placement of the knee really depends on the openness of your hips, so no worries if the knee is out and in line with the side of your body.

This is the most difficult version of the foot placement. Bring the right heel to the inner thigh, bringing it as high as you can toward the inner edge of the groin. Your knee can point down or, if you are like me, some days your hips and back are tight, so the knee might point totally out to the side. And I am OK with that!

The final touch to all the variations of the posture is the arms and the hands. Once you have stabilized, bring your hand into anjali mudra, or prayer position, at the center of your chest. Take a few breaths here.

Maintaining tadasana in the standing leg of all upright positions is very important for the health of the body in this posture. Don’t lose the connection with your belly and back. Try to feel the lower back and spine lengthen again up toward the heavens.

When you are ready to move into the next position, take a deep breath, exhale and drop your hands to your side. Then inhale and extend your arms out to your side and overhead. You can have wide arms and fingers, imitating the limbs of a tree. Or you can take them totally overhead into prayer position. Breathe, breathe, breathe! If you sway, that’s OK; you’re a tree!

No matter where your hands are, try to maintain stability for 10 breaths.

Remember, this is a balancing posture, and it is meant to challenge balance in every form: mental, physical and spiritual. If you fall out of the pose or literally fall over, get back up and try, try again. Don’t be dissuaded by your imbalance; it is the main reason for doing the position: to build strength by building balance to then take it off the mat and into our lives.

Aiyana Baida October 11, 2011 at 02:49 PM
This was one of the first balancing poses I learned how to do when I started yoga. Once I got it all others fell into place.

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