Vrksasana: Tree Pose

treepose stephschwartz

Vrksasana (vrik-SHAHS-ah-nah) is a deceptively challenging pose. While at first glance tree pose may seem easy, the combination of strength, balance, and flexibility required can take lots of practice. Never fear, props like a wall or a chair can come in handy while finding the balance point of the pose, and there are plenty of variations to fit everyone’s practice. This is a great pose to practice dristi (focused gaze) to help with balance.

Philosophy + Origin

In many Indian traditions, trees, specifically the ashoka tree, are symbols of love and devotion. Many cultures seek the knowledge of trees for healing, searching their branches, trunks, leaves, and roots for powerful medicine. Patient by nature, trees are quiet and steady, living their long lives in rhythm with the seasons and the circadian rhythm of the world. In Indian literature, trees often make appearances as sacred symbols of the universe, a bridge between creator and individual.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

  • Skin contact: If you have difficulty keeping your raised foot in place, adjust your clothing so that your lifted foot touches your skin directly.
  • Wall: Place one hand against a wall or chair for extra support. Or, lean your hips and shoulders against a wall.
  • Kickstand: Keep the toes of your lifted leg on the ground, your heel resting against the ankle of your standing leg.
  • Arm variations: Bring your arms overhead or interlace your hands behind your back for a variation.
  • For high blood pressure: Keep your hands at your sides or in prayer position at your heart rather than raising them over your head.
  • Steady your gaze (drishti): Looking at one point while balancing will allow you to stay in the pose longer. Or, challenge your balance by looking up or closing your eyes.

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Begin in mountain pose (tadasana). Shift your weight to your left foot, and bring your right foot to the inner line of your left leg, toes pointing toward the ground.
  2. Your foot may touch your ankle, calf, or inner thigh. Avoid placing your foot on the knee joint.
  3. Press through all four corners of your left foot, especially the mound of your big toe.
  4. Lengthen your tailbone toward the ground, with hips squared forward.
  5. Soften your shoulders away from your ears.
  6. Press the sole of your right foot firmly into your left leg.
  7. Bring your hands together at your heart center in prayer position. Focus your gaze on one point. Option to lift your arms overhead.
  8. Work on staying in the pose for one minute before returning to mountain pose. Repeat on the second side.

PREPARATORY POSES

SEQUENTIAL POSES

COUNTER POSES

SANSKRIT

  • Vrksa = tree
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Stretches inner thighs and groin of lifted leg.
  • Strengthens thighs, calves, core, and foot muscles.
  • Thought to improve posture.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS

  • Thought to offer a sense of balance and poise.


Ardha Hanumanasana: Half Front Splits Pose

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ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Ardha hanumanasana (are-dah hah-new-mahn-AHS-ah-nah) is a big stretch for hamstrings. This pose is more approachable than full hanumanasana and strengthens the muscles needed to practice front splits safely with the correct muscles properly engaged.

Philosophy + Origin

One of the main characters of the Ramayana is Hanuman, the famous monkey god, devotee of Lord Rama, and son of Vayu (the god of wind). He is celebrated in the pose hanumanasana, which physically represents his famous “leap of faith,” taking him across the ocean from India to Sri Lanka. Ardha hanumanasana, the preparatory pose for hanumanasana, can represent the stability and strength needed to make grand, world-changing (or life-changing) gestures. Rather than only focusing on gaining flexibility, practice ardha hanumanasana to create a healthy balance of flexibility and strength. When practicing ardha hanumanasana, remind yourself of the dangers of only being flexible in life; in order to really get where you want to go, you must also be strong and stable.

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