This month’s pose is Tree Pose, or Vrikshasana. Vriksha means “tree” in Sanskrit, and Vrikshasana is a balancing posture. This asana can improve posture, concentration, and range of motion in the hips. It can also strengthen the ankles and tone the muscles of the legs, back and chest.
To come into Vrikshasana, begin in your Mountain Pose. You may want to stand next to a wall if balancing is particularly challenging for your body. Shift your weight into the right foot and come onto the ball of the left foot. You’re welcome to stay right here, or you can bring the left foot to the ankle, calf, or above the knee. Try to avoid placing the foot directly on the right knee as this can cause unnecessary strain on the joint. Once the left foot has found a comfortable place to rest, bring your attention to the midline: press down through the inside of the standing foot, and feel this activation travel all the way up the right leg. Then press the left foot firmly into the right leg, and the leg back into the foot. Notice how this action fires up the core. Find the breath, and then on the next inhale float the fingertips up to the sky. Maintain space between the shoulders and ears and feel weight down through the shoulder blades as they slide together and down the back. Find a drishti or point of focus on the floor or the wall in front of you to support steadiness, and then bring your attention to the beautiful duality of being both firmly rooted through the standing foot and almost weightless through the outstretched fingers. As you stand in your Tree Pose, embrace the inevitability of the wobble. The amazing thing about Asanas that are named metaphorically is just that: they are total metaphors. We are not really trees–we are wondrously asymmetrical human bodies playing pretend for a few rounds of breath–so if you fall over allow yourself to do so with humor and gratitude for the opportunity to take a fun and temporary shape. Come out of the posture on an exhale and return to Tadasana to realign yourself, then take Vrikshasana on the second side.
Forests are vital for the health of our planet: the leaves of trees serve as the lungs of the world. Trees harness the sun’s energy, and use it to combine carbon dioxide gas with water to produce the oxygen we all need to breathe. The next time you practice Vrikshasana in a room full of community members consider this concept of the forest, and imagine yourself as an integral part of it. What are you outputting as you stand in this powerful shape? Is it benefitting the world at large? Together as community we can root down, lift up, and conduct our lives in a way that makes it easier for everyone to breathe.