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vrksasana: tree pose


Vrksasana (vrik-SHAHS-uh-nah) is commonly referred to as tree pose in most yoga classes. The traditional shape of the pose stretches your inner thighs, groin, and shoulders while simultaneously strengthening your thighs, calves, core, and foot muscles. It’s also beneficial for strengthening and improving your posture. A great exercise in practice and patience, this seemingly basic asana provides subtle reminders about your posture and interesting insight about your current mental state.

Philosophy + Origin

In many Indian traditions, trees, specifically the Ashoka tree, are symbols of love and devotion. Many native 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 foot contacts 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 your toes of the 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.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS

  • Late term pregnancy.
  • Vertigo or medical conditions that affect balance.
  • High blood pressure.

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.
  8. Work on staying in the pose for 1 minute before returning to mountain pose. Take several deep breaths before repeating on other side.

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PREPARATORY POSES

FOLLOW-UP POSES

SANSKRIT

  • Vrksa = tree
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Stretches your inner thighs and groin.
  • Strengthens your thighs, calves, core, and feet muscles.
  • Improves and strengthens your posture.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS

  • Calms your mind.
  • Relaxes your central nervous system.

MANTRA

“OM”

This most widely known and used mantra is among the oldest and most widely practiced aspects of the yoga technique. This mantra acknowledges the constant vibrations we are a part of and connected to with the verbal OM. Chanting at different pitches, beginning with low intonations at three to five repetitions and slowly progressing through higher tones, can allow you to focus on the different aspects of our existence, focusing on everything from the physical body to the spiritual dimension.

MUDRA: Anjali mudra

This mudra is also known as the “prayer mudra.” Bring both hands together by pressing the palms together firmly and evenly with the fingers and the thumb pointing upward.

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