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.
I love the basics. Even though advanced yoga poses can be exciting, there is still something lovely about the simplicity of the basics. Basic asanas are like the comfort food of yoga.
My schedule has changed a little bit for this month, so I now have Devki’s class on Wednesdays from 7.45-9 am.
In today’s class we focused on the groin. I’ve been here for a month and so far I haven’t done a blog on any class I’ve attended, but today’s class was different from any so far. We focused on the spine and the root of the spine (moola). We were supposed to grip the spine and the root throughout the sequence. We started with the Swastikasana and went on to the Baddhakonasana.
The class had a pleasant tempo. It didn’t feel like I was struggling in the asanas and pushing my limits. Yet, as the class progressed I could clearly feel that I was settling into the asanas rather than fighting my way into them. As though my limbs were moulding and unfolding effortlessly. I feel I was discovering what the body can do when the mind is quiet and the ego recedes. By the time we got to the Trikonasana I felt light and lithe and it was the best Trikonasana I’ve done while here in Pune.
I always learn something new in Devki’s class. And it’s always something fascinating. The Vrkshasana/Tree Pose is perhaps the first balancing posture that we learn in yoga class. Over the years I’ve heard a lot about the symbolism associated with this pose. The more common ones are to be rooted and strong and to find balance despite what is happening around you. But today Devki said be like a tree and provide shade and protection to all that come to you. A tree doesn’t judge a good person or bad, an animal or a human. It provides shade, protection and relief to one and all.
Although as human beings we are constantly evolving and growing (as we should), we can also be like the tree and ensure that external factors don’t diminish our light or detract us from the work that we are meant to do. We should be compassionate towards all who we come in contact with and see the larger picture even in the midst of the most sticky situations. The tree that provides protection is larger than those that come to it for relief and has a greater purpose. Think about this when practicing your Vrkshasana next time.
Towards the end of the class we went into Baddhakonasana once again and performed it like the Savasana – with the intent of relaxing the body. I couldn’t help but smile when I realized my spine, the root (moola) of the spine and the posture had all come together effortlessly in the Baddhakonasana.