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Tree pose (Vrikshasana): How and why we do it?

Many years before yoga was a huge part of my life me and my best friend used to think yoga was simply "standing around and pretending to be a tree" and we used to laugh at how weird we thought the idea yoga was.

I think many people still have this conception about yoga and continue to think it's all a bit "woo woo" but there's intent and reason behind all of these shapes we call postures.

As part of a new series of blog posts, we’ll be spotlighting different yoga postures to help you learn more about your practice and hopefully this will deepen your understanding and impact your physical and mental wellbeing.

First up, we’re going to start with the tree pose. Read on to discover everything you need to know about "standing around and pretending to be a tree".

What is tree pose?

Tree pose is a standing balance posture where you plant one foot on the ground and the other foot roots by the ankle, against the calf or thigh of your opposite leg.

Your hands usually start in a prayer pose(anjali mudra) at your chest whilst you establish your balance and as you start to feel more confident you can creating the shape of a tree using your arms as branches, expressing your tree pose how ever feels best for you.

What is the Sanskrit name for the tree pose in yoga?

The Sanskrit word for tree pose is vrikshasana. This word is a combination of two Sanskrit words - vrksa, the word for tree and asana, which means pose.

What is the idea behind tree pose?

Tree pose is about grounding yourself in your practice by rooting yourself to the earth beneath you while lengthening your body vertically and stretching out like the branches of a tree.

Because it involves balance and coordination, it can be a physically and mentally challenging posture which can bring a sense of calm and the energy of nature into your practice.

How to do tree pose

Follow these steps to get into tree pose, starting out standing straight and tall on your mat in mountain pose (also known as tadasana).

  • Stand on your mat and bring your feet and legs together;

  • Place your hands together at your chest in anjali mudra & squeeze the palms of your hands together;

  • Move your body weight onto one foot and spread your toes wide to root down into the floor & push your mat away from you to really ground down;

  • Lift the opposite foot heel off the floor & start to externally rotate your leg out to the side from your hip to make a half diamond shape;

  • Place the lifted heel onto the standing leg ankle to establish your base balance & zip up nice and tall to avoid sinking into your standing leg hip;

  • To test the strength of your roots and balance you can bring the sole of your foot to rest on the inside of your calf or thigh;

  • Continue to ground down through your standing foot & pull up through both sides of the leg;

  • Add arms, my fave is to extend the arms out into a mini V shape or connect my palms together over my head;

  • Take a few breaths, try 5, before releasing it slowly and switching sides.

Four tips for nailing the tree pose in yoga

Now you know the basics, here are four tips for perfecting your tree pose.

  1. Lengthen your spine- stand tall and keep your shoulders back & down to lengthen your body and steady your core (you want to be a tall, strong & proud tree)

  2. Wherever you choose to put your foot make sure you have some energy & feedback between the leg & the foot. Ideally the foot is below or above the knee;

  3. Find a focal point - set your gaze (drishti) on a fixed point in the distance (not a person, as they may move and throw you off!) to support your balance. Don't let your eyeballs wander!

  4. Remember to breathe! Regular breathing will help you stay in your tree pose for longer and give you a focus. Whereas holding your breath will create stress in your body & make you feel tense.

What are the benefits of tree pose?

Tree pose has lots of benefits for your body and mind.

These include:

  • Strengthening your legs, knees, and core for better stability;

  • Improving your balance to prevent falls and boost mobility;

  • Weight bearing to help keep bones and muscles strong;

  • Grounding you and calming a busy mind;

  • Helping find focus;

  • Enhance ankle strength

One great thing about tree pose is you can practise it virtually anywhere, not just on the mat in class - why not try it out while brushing your teeth for two minutes of body and brain-boosting balance?

Is tree pose suitable for beginners?

Yes! Tree Pose is normally one of the first balancing postures you'd encounter as a beginner as it sets a good groundwork for a series of other balancing asanas. As with many other yoga postures, tree pose has multiple options to accommodate yogis of all different levels.

If you’re just getting started, be by a wall or stand behind a chair for support or sense of security and you can simply lift your foot and position it against the ankle rather than moving it onto your calf or thigh.

It's important to take it in stages, trees take a long time to grow into their full expression so we need to tend to our soil & roots with patience and kindness.

However, yoga is all about exploration and fun, so don’t be afraid to give things a try, even if you wobble or lose your balance. PLUS trees blow in the wind all the time! So it's perfectly normally for us to bend, move & sway whilst we find balance, it’s all part of the process.

Where can I practise my tree pose in the Ribble Valley?

Vanessa Flow Yoga is a luxurious, welcoming, supportive yoga studio in Clitheroe, in the beautiful Ribble Valley.

You’ll find a packed schedule of classes to explore, and beginners are welcome at all sessions. If you’re unsure where to start, please feel free to message us on social media or email to chat things over before you come along.

Tree pose features in many of our yoga classes, so prepare to give it a whirl on the mat soon - you “wood” not want to miss out!

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