Nature is about balance. When things go off-balance problems arise. A yoga practice is not complete without an element of balance in it.
In ‘Beyond Asanas‘ I talk about the significance of trees and why a pose is dedicated to trees. Trees have played an important role in the dissemination of knowledge from guru to shishya. I talk about the beginning of this parampara in Chapter 30 of Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures.
When you first start to practice the Vrikshasana focusing on balance is inevitable. However, I’ve seen students practicing it as though balance is all there is to it. Many teachers also encourage this notion. To aide the balance students are allowed to place the foot of their bent leg on the shin or next to the knee of the other leg. In one case I’ve seen a student rest the foot on top of the knee of the straight leg.
Balancing is only one aspect of this asana. The Vrkshasana, when practiced correctly requires you to engage the groin. The ability to do so has an impact on how well you can execute this posture. Try it yourself. The spine, the groin, the hips, the abdomen…all behave very differently depending on the placement of the foot of the bent leg. There is a unique ‘hold’ that occurs, the nature of which varies with the positioning of the bent leg.
Once you overcome the challenge of balance, you must start doing the internal work of the posture. What you must work on now is the mula bandha, which will bring more stability to the posture. The stronger the bandha, the taller and steadier you will be in the tree pose.
- Stand in Tadasana
- Shift your weight to your left leg.
- Place your right foot close to the groin, with your toes pointing down. Make sure the knee points outwards, to give your hips a wide opening.
- Keep your gaze focused and form a namaskar with your hands above your head.
- Repeat on the other side.
Start in the Tadasana. Keep the thighs engaged and rolled in. The body weight should be distributed evenly on both feet.
The position of the heel makes a difference to the practice of the asana. Don’t be content with resting the foot just anywhere on the leg. Work on getting it closer to the groin.
Read more about the benefits and contraindications of the vrikshasana in ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures‘. The book was published this year by Penguin Random House. The book contains beautiful images of the asanas taken by Joel Koechlin, along with a foreword by Kalki Koechlin. Available on Amazon and Flipkart and at your nearest bookstore.
The running group.
Just got back from Hyderabad this morning. I stayed with my sister and did my second Go Heritage Run. Spending time with the super fit sis is always amazing. She’s an enthusiastic member of the Hyderabad Runners (they actually helped in organizing the run). Since it’s difficult to find time to run daily, I try and get a run in 2-3 times a week and try to do between 5-7 km. I’ve already waxed eloquent about the GHR initiative in this video. If you’re a runner, and want to run longer and better, consider adding yoga to your routine a couple of times a week.
A few of you might remember the vlog I did on Bikram yoga a couple of years ago. My sister actually goes for Bikram yoga a few times a month and while there I decided to give the style another go. I honestly didn’t think I would make it through the class. The first time I attended a Bikram yoga class, I lay down after the third asana and told the teacher that I would like to leave . This time I got through the class without collapsing, throwing up or passing out! We were famished post class and went to The Waffle House to stuff ourselves with many glorious waffles.
I’ve been to Hyderabad several times ever since my sister moved there, and this time I wanted to explore it a bit more. We had dinner at the Taj Falaknuma. It was just the kind of experience I enjoy – a tour of the historical palace and sumptuous dinner afterwards. Taking a cue from a few students, I also dragged my sister for the ‘Dialogues in the Dark’ experience. I asked a couple of my friends in Bangalore if they’d like to join me for the experience and their initial reaction was similar to mine – a loud and emphatic NO. But I recommend the experience, if only to show support for the cause it represents. Video coming up later this week about that experience.
Post run @ the Taramati Baradari
All in all, my four days in Hyderabad were amazing. I didn’t have to miss my workouts, hung out with my sister, met a few members of the Hyderabad Runners, watched a couple of movies (The Mummy & Bounce) and focused on tweaking this site a bit more. Back to daily practice and teaching and weekend runs.
On another note, tomorrow is the summer solstice, which also happens to be World Yoga Day. Every day is yoga day for me, but it’s nice that the longest day of the year is also the one to commemorate yoga.