Standing in vrksasana gives us a chance to feel our body respond to an uneven distribution of weight and to reflect on how we stay centered when faced with shifts and imbalances in the world around us. Like the trees that inspire the pose, we spend our lives moving through cycles and negotiating environmental changes. Vrksasana is both an exercise and a metaphor for finding stillness, even as we grow and sway.
We will explore tree pose during the balance series, after the warm-up and strengthening sequences. Tree pose is a great pose for anytime, however, and can help bring a few minutes of stillness to a hectic day. If you are moving into tree pose on your own, begin in standing prayer pose with your hands pressed together in front of your sternum. Take a few breaths to steady yourself and to turn your focus inward. Engage your core muscles to bring your attention to your center. Draw your shoulder blades down your back to open your chest. Lengthen your neck, feeling the crown of your head lift as you press the soles of your feet into the ground.
Once you feel centered and active in your stance, engage your abs again as you turn your right foot out. Shifting your weight, draw your right foot up your standing left leg, keeping your right knee turned out and feeling the sole of your right foot gently sweep up to rest on the inside of your left thigh. While the standing leg should be straight, it's important not to lock the standing knee. Feel the right hip open to stretch the groin while the steady pressure of the right foot gently massages the inside of the left thigh. The abs should stay engaged as the shoulders continue to slide down the back, opening the chest. Keep the chin parallel to the floor and visualize the body's energy moving in opposite directions, rising and rooting at the same time.
Don't worry if you wobble and need to adjust your lifted foot. Balancing is an active process and vrksansana is an exercise in centering physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Keep the breath flowing and let the body adapt to find its natural balance.
If you feel steady enough to explore the pose further, lift the hands up and open them wide. Spread and extend the fingers as you visualize the arms and hands taking the form of branches that channel the body's energy outward into the space around your tree. Feel your weight root into the ground through your standing leg and allow your body to lengthen upward as your ab muscles support your spine.
To obtain the full benefit, perform the pose on both sides. Feel for differences between sides, which could indicate the presence of muscle imbalances or energy blocks. Tree pose reminds us to check in with our bodies and to feel for signs of unease before they bring disease.
Most importantly, approach tree pose with a light heart. Don't brace yourself, embrace yourself as you find your balance. Enjoy the interplay between activity and stillness. Take inspiration from the trees, which stay steady while they sway.