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.


Hanumanasana: Front Splits Pose

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ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Hanumanasana (hah-new-mahn-AHS-ah-nah) honors the great leap made by Hanuman, the famous monkey god from the Ramayana, across the ocean from India to the mountains of Sri Lanka. Front splits pose demands flexibility, strength, and stability.

Philosophy + Origin

More than just an incredible leap, Hanuman is remembered, celebrated, and worshiped because of his great devotion and courage. To be devoted, one must be bold enough to stand firmly in their beliefs, selflessly serving others and putting others’ needs above their own.

Because of its physical demands, it’s easy to get caught up in “achieving” the outward appearance of the posture. As such, it’s important to keep your ego in check as you dedicate yourself to the posture. Above all, invite kindness and selflessness to flow freely from the posture. As you practice, ask yourself how you can embody Hanuman’s devotion both in your physical yoga practice and your everyday life.

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