Monday, October 25, 2010

Asana Series: Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Vrksasana
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
(vrik-SHAHS-anna)
vrksa = tree

I really like trees. No actually, I really LOVE trees. They are my absolute most favorite item found in nature. I have been known on occasion to come home from vacation with more photos of trees than people. Why do I love thee (trees, I mean)?  What's simple, is true. I love how different they all are from one another, how tall they can grow, how wise they seem, how steady and certain they are, their strength, the shade and homes they provide and most importantly, the breath we share.

Knowing all this, it will come as no surprise that Vrksasana (Tree Pose) is one of my absolute favorite asana postures. It is by no means a difficult asana and is very accessible to any willing yogi. With practice comes a deeper understanding of what it takes to root down, grow up tall and spread your limbs. Yes, it sounds a little cheesy, but it's the best way to describe this very austere posture.

Getting into Vrksasana is easy. First start by grounding down through all four corners of your chosen foot (I usually start with my right side). Really feel yourself connecting and rooting down into the earth beneath you. Lift up the toes of your standing foot to make sure you're well connected in all four corners. Next lengthen and strengthen you standing leg making sure you knee is over your ankle, and your hip is aligned over your knee. Create a sturdy foundation on which to stand.

Vrksasana, arms extended
Important note: when working with any balance pose, find your point of focus or drishti (gaze). Keeping your eyes locked on a fixed point will help to find focus and concentration for the pose.  Try to choose something that doesn't move otherwise you're likely to follow that point and lose your balance.

Next, bend your knee and turn your other foot so the sole rests on the outside of your ankle, calf, or inner thigh. Never place your foot on your knee as this can cause damage to the knee joint. Keep pushing your foot into your leg and your leg into your foot and notice the play of balance. Bring hands into prayer position at your heart. Gently tuck the pelvis under, lift up on the belly button, and drop your shoulders down your back as you elevate out through the crown your head.

 Before moving on, take a few moments here to breathe and settle in to the posture. Finally, inhale and reach your arms up and overhead to extend your "branches" out into the wide world, choosing any mudra or arm variation you like. Play a little with your limbs and see what happens when you "try-on" different trees.

Vrksasana, eyes closed
For an added challenge, close your eyes. This might not be doable at first as closing the eyes immediately throws off your center of gravity, but with practice you may find yourself blissfully blowing in the wind with your drishti turned inwards rather than out into the great big world.

Stay in Vrksasana for at least 5 full breaths or as long as you like and repeat the same sequence on the other side. You may notice your tree is different from one side to the other. Explore the differences with an open mind and become aware of the subtitles as you work with the different sides of the body.

You can practice tree pose just about anywhere. I typically like to stand in this position while washing dishes or waiting in line. It's a great to work on your balance and get comfortable with the posture. By all means, express yourself, play, breathe and become the happy little tree you are!

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