Tree Pose (Vriksasana) is a popular balancing pose we practice in yoga. It's also a strengthening pose that can be challenging on its own, or built into a sequence with other asanas.
This pose strengthens the legs and stretches the hips and the arms. It also improves overall concentration and coordination.
Tree Pose is fun and accessible to almost anyone, but what most people don't know is that when practiced properly and with full intention, it can actually change your life.
Here are four steps to getting the most out of Tree Pose:
1. Bring yourself into the present moment.
From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), bring your hands to your hips, soften your gaze and find your drishti. In yoga, a drishti is a soft fixed gaze on something in front of you that isn't moving.
Drishti is related to the fifth limb of yoga, Pratyahara, meaning withdrawal of senses. Begin to take your practice inward and bring yourself into the present moment. This is your opportunity to connect with yourself and your practice.
2. Build strong foundational roots.
Like a tree, start to feel stable to the earth by making a connection with your roots. Make sure all 10 toes and all four corners of both feet are on the mat. The feet should be about hips-width apart.
The stance should immediately activate your Root Chakra (Muladhara). The Root Chakra is located at the base of your spine and helps you feel more stable in your life. It's connected to your home, basic needs and relationships. When out of balance, it can be associated with weight, depression and/or anxiety. When balanced, the Root Chakra supports calm energy and allows you to recognize that all of your needs are being met.
Root into one of your feet and pick up the sole of the other one, either placing it on the inside of the ankle, the shin, picking it up to the inside of the thigh, or into the opposite hip for standing half-lotus. Any variation is fine, just avoid placing the sole of the foot on the knee. You can start against the wall, too, if that helps you to balance.
If you're healthy and strong in the activated muscles but are wavering or feeling uncertain, this could mean it's a good time to re-evaluate your home life. A simple change, such as cleaning out a closet or adding new décor or Feng Shui to your house, such as plants, could make a big difference.
Or it could mean a bigger change should be made, such as moving to a new house or city, or making a change to a key relationship in your life that you currently regard as safe. You probably already know the answer. Keep practicing this step to help you come to terms with what needs more grounding in your life.
3. Find your passion.
Once you feel stable, open up your hips by ensuring they are pointing forward. You should feel the stretch intensify in your hip joints, but only slightly.
This hip opening will activate the Sacral Chakra (Svadisthana). The Sacral Chakra is located in your pelvic area, and is related to all things pleasurable — sex, passion, or art. This is important because while the Root Chakra is activated and tapping into your basic needs, the Sacral Chakra can explore the "wants" in life.
When the Sacral Chakra is out of balance, a person can be either cold and unfriendly or overly needy. When active, the Sacral Chakra can help a person feel more sensual and connected to their body.
Observe your thoughts in this step of the pose. What makes you happy? What are your passions? What do you truly want out of life and who do you want to spend time with?
Know that it's OK to ask yourself these questions and don't doubt your answers. This step of the pose will help you explore and accept your inner desires.
4. Build more confidence.
Next, you can keep your hands on your hips, bring them in prayer position in front of your heart center, or lift them up over your head. Don't let the shoulders creep up to the ears and stand tall by lifting out of the standing leg, helping to activate the core and ensure you are not sinking into the hip.
This step should activate your Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura). This chakra is located in the belly and is related to your "core self," which includes your confidence, willpower and self-discipline. When out of balance, you may feel passive and allow life to move on without them. They may be stressed out and have emotional outbursts. When balanced, a person can move forward in their life with confidence, easily make decisions and not be hesitant to act on them.
At this stage of the pose, your basic survival needs and inner desires have been awakened, helping you to identify who you are as a person. Make a point of managing any negative thoughts that arise about yourself and be proud of who you are. This will help you love and accept yourself, and seek opportunities for growth.
If you lose your balance and fall, do not get discouraged or angry. This just means you are challenging yourself. Keeping these four steps in mind next time you try Tree Pose will help you build a strong foundation in your life as you follow your dreams with more courage and confidence.
Photo courtesy of Des Iles Photography
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