If you’ve ever tripped off a curb or slipped on a patch of ice, you probably understand the benefit of having a good sense of balance. Practicing balancing poses in yoga, such as Tree Pose, will help you gain both physical and mental steadiness and poise. Tree Pose improves focus and concentration while calming your mind. Its Sanskrit name, “Vrksasana”, comes from two words: “Vrksa” - which means “tree” and “Asana” - which means “pose”.
The word “asana” can also be translated as “seat.” Many of the original ancient yoga poses were seated postures. As the practiced developed, standing poses were introduced, but the seated, meditative aspect still remained. Tree Pose, with its calming and meditative benefits, is like a standing variation of a seated meditation posture. Keeping calm and focused while balancing on one foot will teach you to sway gently like a tree in the wind, steady and sure no matter what the outside circumstances may be.
Benefits of Tree Pose
Tree Pose stretches the thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and tones the abdominal muscles. The pose also helps to remedy flat feet and is therapeutic for sciatica. Most notably, though, Tree Pose improves your sense of balance and coordination.
Regular practice will improve your focus and your ability to concentrate in all areas of your life, particularly during those times when you might normally feel “off-balance”. This pose has a positive impact on the grace and ease with which you approach all circumstances, even outside of your yoga class. It teaches the benefits of a meditative state of mind, and is a gentle reminder that you can bring calm focus and clear-headedness to all situations, not just when you are practicing a seated meditation.
Due to the balancing nature of the posture, do not practice Tree Pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, low blood pressure, or if you are lightheaded and/or dizzy. Those with high blood pressure should not raise their arms overhead in the pose. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
How to Do Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), with your arms at your sides. Distribute your weight evenly across both feet, grounding down equally through your inner ankles, outer ankles, big toes, and baby toes.
- Shift your weight to your left foot. Bend your right knee, then reach down and clasp your right inner ankle. Use your hand to draw your right foot alongside your inner left thigh. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only above or below it. Adjust your position so the center of your pelvis is directly over your left foot. Then, adjust your hips so your right hip and left hip are aligned.
- Rest your hands on your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Then, press your palms together in prayer position at your chest, with your thumbs resting on your sternum.
- Fix your gaze gently on one, unmoving point in front of you.
- Draw down through your left foot. Press your right foot into your left thigh, while pressing your thigh equally against your foot.
- Inhale as you extend your arms overhead, reaching your fingertips to the sky. Rotate your palms inward to face each other. If your shoulders are more flexible, you can press your palms together in prayer position, overhead. Focus on something that doesn’t move to help you keep your balance.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, step back into Mountain Pose.
- Repeat for the same amount of time on the opposite side.
Tree Pose for Beginners
Practicing Tree Pose can be a great way to gain balance, grace, and poise — for beginners students. To help with balancing, bring your awareness to the center line of your body — the vertical line that runs directly through the center of your head, neck, and torso.
- If you cannot bring the left foot high inside the right thigh, bring it lower on the right leg - but be careful to avoid placing the left foot directly on the right knee.
- If you are very unsteady, try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for extra support. Alternatively, you can place a chair next to the standing-leg side of your body and rest your hand on the back of the chair for extra support.
Tree Pose for Advanced
In order to fully gain the meditative benefits of Tree Pose, it’s important to stay grounded and calm in the pose, while still maintaining alignment.
- Bring the arms up towards the ceiling with the palms touching. Open the arms out to side.
- For a greater challenge when your arms are overhead, close your eyes. Practice balancing without using the outside world for reference.
- Bring your lifted leg into a Half Lotus Position.
Root Down to Rise Up
By regularly practicing balancing poses, you gain concentration, focus, poise, coordination — and a steady and balanced mind. Tree Pose connects you to the earth, as you root down through your standing foot. As you balance in the pose, feel the slight and gentle sway of your body. Just like a tree in the breeze, you’ll grow in confidence, standing tall as you face life’s challenges with grace and ease.