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vrksasana: tree pose


Vrksasana (vrik-SHAHS-anna) is commonly referred to as Tree pose in most yoga classes. Requiring balance and focus, the pose asks you to stand on one leg while grounding firmly through the standing foot. 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 you with subtle reminders about your posture and interesting insight about your current mental state. As a result, you’ll feel calm and relaxed after spending time in Tree pose.

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 the Creator and the individual.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

  • If you have difficulty keeping your raised foot in place, roll up your leggings or practice in shorts so that your foot contacts your skin directly
  • If you need extra support while balancing, use a wall or chair for extra support. You can also keep your toes of the lifted leg on the ground, your heel resting against the ankle of your standing leg
  • If you are pregnant, you can practice with a wall for additional balance. During the third trimester, place the sole of the foot of your lifted leg on a chair rather than bringing your foot to your thigh
  • If you have high blood pressure, keep your hands at your sides or in prayer position at your heart rather than raising them over your head

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS

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

TIPS

Practice this pose by steadying your gaze (drishti). Looking at one point while balancing will allow you to stay in the pose longer. You’ll notice that if your mind wanders, if you’re stressed, anxious, or distracted, Tree pose becomes much more difficult.

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Begin in Mountain pose (Tadasana). Start to bring your attention to your left foot, shifting your weight as you lift the sole of your right foot off the ground. Press through all four corners of your left foot, especially the mound of your big toe, as you use your right hand to find your right ankle.
  2. Use your right hand to position the sole of your right foot against the inner thigh of your left leg. Be sure to avoid placing your foot on the knee joint. If necessary, place your right foot below the left knee on the outer part of your calf. Point your right toes towards the floor.
  3. Take your hands to your hips, adjusting your pelvis so that it is in a neutral position. Lengthen your tailbone slightly towards the ground, dropping your shoulders away from your ears.
  4. Press the sole of your right foot firmly into your left leg. Engage your left quadriceps muscle so that it can push back against your foot. Bring your hands together at your heart center in prayer position. Focus your gaze on one steady point, preferably several feet away.
  5. Work on staying in the pose for 1 minute before returning to Mountain pose. Exhale and take several deep breaths before repeating on other side, beginning by lifting your left foot.

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PREPARATORY POSES

  • Tadasana
  • Navasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES

  • Katichakrasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Savasana

SANSKRIT

  • Vrksa = tree
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Stretches your inner thighs, groin, and shoulders
  • 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 verbalOm. 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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