Saturday, October 25, 2008


One of my favorite vacation poses is Vrksasana or Tree Pose. When you're out in the wilds camping, on a lanai overlooking a Hawaiian sunrise, or even just visiting your parents for the weekend, popping into Tree for a spell is a nice way to realign, get your daily yoga fix and find some balance in your new environment. It's fun, it's pretty easy (except for the balancing part) and it just feels so yoga.

I teach it early, even to complete beginners, because it is easy to assume (modifications next post) and it gets people thinking about alignment. Plus, it's sort of the "international sign of yoga" (every time advertisers want to make a wellness connection with their product, inevitably they pair it with some cute chick doing Tree). Once you've tried it, you know you're in a yoga class.

Some things to think about:
-Yeah, it's a balance pose and is great for ankle strength, but it's also a hip opener. Try to keep your hips square, while still pressing the knee out to the side. There's a tendency to start twisting towards the bent knee, so keep the standing leg strong.

-If you approach it as a hip opener, you don't really need to have your bent knee foot at the top of the thigh. Even with it pressed to the calf or ankle, with the toes on the floor, allows you to square the hips and open the knee to the side. See if that helps with balance issues. When you feel grounded, you can always place the foot higher on the standing leg.

-Find something very still or, even better, nothing to focus on. You are looking, but not seeing, so your awareness is in the standing foot and the spine. My students can hold the pose for quite some time, if I make them turn around and stare at the wall. Try it.

It's week's everybody doing?


Anne-Marie said...

Hi Brenda, I tried to leave a comment on the previous two posts but they weren't published, so I'm not sure if you received them.

I love vrksasana, but I'm quite lopsided. I'm great standing on my left leg with my right leg up. But the other way round is more difficult. My left foot WILL slip down my right leg, and my right leg wobbles, especially the ankle.

Thanks for the advice on opening the hips - I'll definitely try to think of that when I do vrksasana tomorrow.


Brenda P. said...

I'm so sorry that I some how forgot to publish your comments. Maybe because I got so involved in reading your blog that I forgot what I was doing. Anyway, they're up now, and I'll bet other people will be glad to hear about your experience with the poses.

See if the hip-focus helps your tree. It makes the thighs work harder, which may help stabilize the knees.

Let me know!

Ivete said...

Hi, Brenda!
Tree pose is one of my favorites. I just love doing it and I've enjoyed even more lately because I can get my feet all the way up to my thigh. I must say it took me a long time.

AbbyT said...

Hi Brenda ... I've been following along in my own, modified and back-arsewards way, and just wanted to say thanks for such an inspiring idea! Picking a pose to focus on has really helped me, a beginner, get a better sense for each pose. Love reading about the modifications, too!

Just wanted to say thanks :)

Mary said...

I'm doing it daily, and trying to do Ardha Chandrasana too, for more balancing practice. (See my balancing post at

It's encouraging that you said it's OK for your foot to go lower. I have been practicing for 9 years, and have never been able to get my heel up into my groin.

Barrett said...

What I love about balancing is that when you're in it, you're in it. I can't or don't think of anything else except the balance. Sometimes I think we can "float away" in some of the other postures, planning our lunch or worrying about the next task on the agenda. But if we want to keep our balance, we need to keep our attention fixed. It's a good life lesson.

And my favorite way to practice tree? Looking at a tree - it's a really cool symbiosis.

Brenda P. said...

Today, one of my students came up after class and thanked me--after 5 years of trying, she finally came into Tree and stayed (she's been in my class for about 5 weeks). How cool is that?

I agree, Barrett, when it all lines up, it feels like you could just stay there forever (well, at least 2 mins.).

Ivete, Abby and Mary-I'm glad you're making Tree work for you. I think it's a little like riding a bike...all of a sudden you can.

danielle said...

Hi Brenda,
Really cool blog. And I agree with everything you said about tree. My very first instructor used to say (and this really resonated in me) "If you shake or feel a shift in balance in the pose...embrace it, a tree's leaves blow in the wind too."
As annoyingly new-agey as that sounds, it can really motivate a beginner.


Dejan said...

I like this pose also, and I am more comfortable when I stand on the left foot, instead of right.

Thank you.