Before I began practicing yoga, I was a jogger and tennis player who thought stretching was a waste of time. I found all poses daunting, but in particular, tree pose seemed impossible. How could anyone balance on one leg, with the opposite foot pressed against the standing thigh, with a serene look on her face?
It was very challenging to me until I learned the following special tips I'd love for you to try:
1. Use all of your standing foot. Spread the toes of the standing leg and place them back down on your mat, thereby raising the arch and activating the core. Press into all four corners of the foot. This rooting down of the lower body in conjunction with the lengthening of the upper body will help stabilize.
2. Allow a slight bend in the standing leg. Locked out and hyper extended knees create too rigid a tree, allowing for no small adjustments. The foot (including the ankle) with its 26 bones and over 100 ligaments, muscles and tendons, will need a little movement to synchronize.
3. Press the sole of the foot of the bent leg into the thigh and press the thigh into the foot. Contracting these muscles, along with pressing the palms together with thumbs at the sternum (prayer position or anjali mudra) will help with steadiness. Once you feel grounded, you can raise your arms, lengthening the upper body and smiling broadly in the victorious V.
4. Find an unmoving focal point (drishti) and stare at it. This can be a spot on the floor or on a wall, just not anything moving.
5. Concentrate on your breathing. Deep abdominal breaths will relax the body. Counting the breaths will ensure both sides get equal time as you practice your standing on each leg.
6. Practice often. If you can practice a few minutes a day, results will quickly follow. Getting up from your desk and kicking off your shoes and popping into tree will do the whole body good as well as get the feet used to different surfaces.
7. Practice with a smile. It's OK to fall out of the pose! Smile and laugh a little and try again.
These tips should have your tree standing upright and proud! Swaying a little is always good, being willing to move with whatever life has in store, even as you stay grounded.