Yoga helps to promote poise, grace, and balance. A group of postures known as balancing poses are especially helpful in achieving these goals. In addition to helping provide balance, these postures also help to promote concentration and clarity of thought because you must focus the mind with great awareness in order to balance the physical body.
One of the best balancing postures is vrkasana, or "Tree Pose." In this posture, you balance yourself on one leg at a time while striving to achieve the rootedness and balance of a tree. This asana, in addition to promoting grace and balance, helps to stretch and tone the muscles of the legs and groin area. If you are new to Tree Pose or are still working to perfect this posture, you may want to position yourself next to a wall, chair, or table for added support as you try it.
To prepare for Tree Pose, stand erect in Mountain Pose. Slowly shift your body weight onto your left foot. Inhale as you raise your right leg and grasp your right foot with both hands. Flex your right leg so that your right knee points out to the right and your right inner thigh is facing directly forward in front of you. Place the sole of your right foot flat against your left inner thigh, knee, or ankle—as high up on your left leg as you comfortably can. The inside surface of your right thigh should be as parallel as possible to the wall in front of you. Press the little toe of the bent leg into the standing leg—this helps to release the hip of the bent leg and open the thigh even more. Both legs exert equal tension—the foot of the bent leg presses into the standing leg as the standing leg presses into the foot of the bent leg.
Let your arms hang by your side for the time being. Take a few breaths as you steady yourself in Tree Pose. You will most likely find it easier to balance and maintain your placement in this posture if you fix your gaze steadily on one point located at or below eye level or on the floor in front of you.
If you find this posture challenging enough as you are now positioned, then simply hold this position for as long as you are able. If you feel stable in this position, then try raising your arms and hands into Prayer Position at the center of your chest (see Fig. YPS.5a). Hold and breathe several full breaths in this position. If you find this is challenging enough for you, then hold here for as long as you can. If you feel that you can go still further in Tree Pose, then slowly raise your arms up overhead. Check to make sure that your arms are straight and in line with your ears (see Fig. YPS.5b). If it is uncomfortable for you to bring your palms together—and for many men it is because of tightness in the shoulder area—then simply hold your arms pointing straight above your head toward the ceiling and parallel to one another. If you are accomplished in this posture, try closing your eyes.
When you are ready to release from Tree Pose, gently lower your arms to your sides as you release your bent leg to the floor. Breathe and relax. Take a moment to see how you feel, and then perform Tree Pose standing on the opposite leg.
If you find it difficult to maintain your balance in Tree Pose, try supporting yourself by placing your hands against a wall or on a table or chair. Fig. YPS.5c shows a modified version of Tree Pose with chair support. If necessary, lower the sole of the foot of the bent leg to the knee or ankle of the standing leg.
After you have performed Tree Pose on both sides of the body, take a moment to be aware of how you feel. Did you feel different from one side to the other as you performed Tree Pose?
Vrkasana can be a challenging posture. Work within your limits. Place the bent leg as far down on the standing leg as is necessary for you. Use a wall, chair, or other prop for support for as long as you need to. As you progress in your practice, Tree Pose should become easier for you. See if eventually you can execute Tree Pose with the eyes closed. As you gain greater dexterity and confidence in this pose, you may well find yourself gaining greater balance, poise, and clarity in many other areas of your life as well.
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