Tree Pose is my all-time favorite yoga pose. You just can’t beat it for grace, elegance, poise, harmony, calm – I think you get the idea. Yogis can be seen meditating in Tree Pose along the banks of the Ganges, the sacred river of India. In the film Australia, the Aborigine actor David Gulpilil  can be seen doing this pose with spears in his hand. He looks so much more relaxed than if he was standing on his two feet – relaxed, yet intensely alert. Alertness or attention is the key to all balancing positions  and is the reason they can be difficult for the beginner. Because standing on one leg demands a lot of concentration and usually one side will pose more of a challenge than the other. The trick is to establish what it feels like to be completely rooted and centered over your two feet and to transfer that feeling into the side you are going to balance on. Once you achieve that, it’s all about practice, practice, practice – until you can stand in the position for as long as you want.

  • To help you understand what rootedness feels like, practice swaying from side to side shifting the weight of the body from foot to the other. What you’re looking for is to feel that the weight of the body is evenly distributed over both feet. Gradually, slow the swaying down as you feel more centered. Eventually, allow yourself to come to a standstill and relish the sensation of being completely centered. This is the feeling of centerdness you want to shift to the side of the body in order to be able to balance successfully on one foot.

Tree pose is one of the most rewarding poses because it develops so many mental qualities like concentration, clarity and memory. It also improves balance, co-ordination and posture and strengthens the ankles, legs, spine, chest and arms. Plus, it is one of those mysterious postures that relaxes and energizes you at the same time.

How to practice Tree Pose:

  • Practice swaying from side to side as outlined above.
  • Stand in Mountain Pose with your right side facing a wall. If you start to wobble during the pose, place your right hand or even a finger on the wall to help steady yourself.
  • Imagine a line running down through the centre of your body dividing it into two equal halves. The middle point on this line is located in the abdomen, two inches below the navel and two inches into the body – this is your body’s centre of gravity. In order to balance on your right leg, this imaginary line has to move over to the left side of the body so that your centre of gravity has now shifted to your left hip. To do this, slide the the pubic bone over to the left until you feel centered in the left hip-bone. Keep the left leg firm.
  • Now try moving the foot in stages. The idea is that wherever you feel most steady, you leave your foot in this position until your balance improves in time. Bend the right knee and push the right big toe into the floor… If you can do this without losing your balance, place the big toe on top of the left foot… If this is okay, move on to placing the whole foot just above the ankle… Next try higher up the calf, and finally, if possible, place the foot on top of the inner thigh itself with the toes pointing down towards the floor. Your foot make get stuck in the material of your trousers. If so, push some of the material downwards out of your way… The final position is to place the foot in cross-leg position as shown in the photo above but this may take some time. In my case it took years…
  • To help keep you balanced, in your mind’s eye, picture the outer edge of your left foot and focus on that.
  • When you can stand steadily on one foot, move on to the placement of the hands. Inhale, and extend the arms out to the sides. Exhale, and place the hands into prayer position (Namaste) in front of the abdomen. In time, you can take the arms over the head either placing the palms together or holding them parallel.
  • As you inhale, lift hips, waist, ribs and chest upwards and stretch into the finger tips if the arms are raised over head.
  • Exhaling, move the right knee and thigh slightly down and back towards the body. This helps keep the hips as level as possible as the right hip automatically rises up when you place the right foot on the left leg. Also relax the shoulders and the sides of the neck downwards.
  • Keep the left leg steady and firm at all times.
  • Hold for 6 breaths. Inhaling, release your foot back down on to the floor again and repeat on the other side. Repeat on both sides x2 or x3 times.

NEED  HELP?

~ Balance can be one of the most difficult things to master. So, try practicing Tree Pose in your everyday life, for example when standing in a queue. Shift your pelvis over to the side and place one foot on the opposite one. Swap and do the other side. It gives you something to do and no one will even notice.

~ Practice Tree Pose in front of a mirror. It helps you balance for longer.

STOP!

DO NOT raise  your arms over your head if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart problems. Hold them in prayer position in front of the abdomen instead.

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