On a blustery day there is movement in everything the wind touches. Even the river seems to be carried faster by the rushing air. Nothing in nature is still except the trunks of the strong trees; they are solid, constructed by God and the universe to withstand the torments of nature. We are built this way too. Through experience, the roots of who we are become deeper and stronger making us more resilient to the major blows as we age and grow. These roots hold us steady when the winds of change and challenge arise. Our roots, an ever expanding system of support, allow us to stand alone and stand strong in the face of judgment and adversity. Our roots keep us balanced and provide the spiritual sustenance we need to learn and grow and experience the world using our full span of branches, blooming above ground.
In yoga, the slow and concentrated movement into Vrksasana simulates the growth of a tree. If the foundation and roots are solid, the tree will stand healthy and strong. This is the same way we feel in Vrksasana (tree pose) on the days when we are mentally and physically balanced. Achieving this state is hard though, whether you’re balancing on one leg or juggling kids, job, spouse and a social life. As in yoga, balance is about practice and using your tools of focus, concentration and determination which are key in achieving results on or off the mat. When the mind is single-pointed on a purpose, all the distractions fall away and your full energy lies with your intention. One success leads to another and another and next thing you know, you’re standing on one leg, one arm, your head or you’re done with work by 5:00 with kids in bed by 8:00 so you can snuggle with the hubby or get a glass of wine with the girls. The first step is seeking balance in whatever area of your life feels like a runaway train.
You don’t need experience in yoga to practice Vrksasana. The biggest challenge of this pose, is being nice to yourself by not getting frustrated when you fall out of balance…and you will fall out of balance. We fall out of balance in more ways than one every day. Your efforts with Tree Pose will help curb this sense of frustration on a mental and physical level so you can fall back into step, keep moving, keep trying, and keep growing. Remember that as you experiment with Vrksasana.
As with all postures, be mindful of the limitations of your body. Be careful if you have weak ankles and stand next to or against a wall if you are prone to dizziness, have vertigo or if you feel unsteady for any reason. Choose a space that has firm flooring and that is unobstructed by furniture or other objects. Read the instruction completely before moving into the posture.
Begin growing into Vrksasana by standing with both feet together, visualizing them rooting through the floor into the earth, the four corners of each foot evenly holding the weight of your body. Lift your toes and feel the firm pressure in the balls and heels of your feet. Replace your toes on the ground and lift your kneecaps. Feel the strength growing upward as your quadriceps are engaged. Visualize that strength moving up through the roots you planted with your feet. Tuck your tailbone under and engage your core, feeling yourself rise and grow taller. Roll your shoulders down your back, elongating your neck. Your chin is level with the earth and your face is relaxed. Your arms are relaxed at your sides and your hands dangle at the ends like the leaves on a branch.
Feel the way you are planted and balanced, yet flexible as a tree which might sway with the wind. Close your eyes and spend some time here tuning into your body. Trees need oxygen, so remember to take in deep breaths, expanding your belly like a balloon and sending the air up through the ribcage of the thoracic region and into the chest. When your body is full of oxygen, compress the air out from the chest down through the ribcage and use the abdominal muscles to press it out.
Once you feel firmly rooted, bring your hands to your hips. Reach for your right ankle with your right hand and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh, as close to your perineum as possible with the right knee pointed out to the side. If this is too difficult, you can bring the sole of your foot to your calf, but never against the inside of your knee. For an easier modification, flex your toes against the floor and place your right heel against your left ankle like a kickstand.
Wherever you begin, as your foot rises up your leg, visualize yourself energetically growing, as a tree, from your roots firmly planted on the earth. Imagine the steadiness being initiated from under the ground and up through your planted foot and standing leg. When you are balanced, bring the hands to prayer, palms pressed together, at heart center. Remember to keep breathing and not to hold your breath. When you are steady here, slowly begin to grow your arms overhead, keeping the palms pressed together and straightening your arms next to your ears. As with all things in our lives, it helps to have a point of focus. As my yoga teacher said during my training in India, “Find your coconut.” Find something in front of you to concentrate your gaze and focus your energy toward. As you stand with strength and purpose, maybe on your first try, maybe on your 50th, imagine yourself as a tree standing strong against the rain, wind and snow, transforming with the challenges of every season; standing strong, alone and powerful against them.
To come out, inhale deeply. As you exhale, slowly begin to lower the raised arms back to heart center. As you release your arms to your sides, slowly let your right foot slide back down to the floor in a controlled manner. Take a few deep breaths, shake your legs out and attempt the other side.
A tree represents steadiness. It’s hard to imagine a tree being unbalanced or having a scattered mind. When you’re feeling at your most restless, unsure, worried or out of control, envision yourself as a tree. Regular practice of Vrksasana helps us develop poise, concentration and single-pointed focus. You can practice this same concentration while sitting at your desk by closing your eyes and turning your awareness to your breath. When you concentrate on that one thing, your breath, your mind begins to become still. In quiet and stillness the mind is reset and the answers to life’s problems become clear as you become mentally and spiritually balanced.
Thanks to Kru Sam and SAMsāra Yogā in Bankok for the beautiful image in this post. Visit www.facebook.com/samsarayogashala for more information and photos.
This article was originally published in Soulwoman eMagazine. Visit the Soulwoman Sanctuary online to find the current issue at www.soulwomansanctuary.com.