MATT MULCAHY IS THE MAN ON THE MAT
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
An iconic standing balance that draws its roots from hatha yoga, tree pose remains popular in modern practice and offers an exploration of hip-opening capacity. It can also improve your sense of balance and coordination, reflective of its grounding and meditative qualities. While you’ll never be absolutely still in your tree pose, joy can be found in the subtle movements within your body, refining balance with each breath you take, just like a tree responds to the seasons. Practiced with the correct alignment, this posture strengthens the thighs, calves and ankles, while stretching the groin and inner thigh.
Maintain integrity of your body’s capabilities rather than focusing how wide the knee can open or how high the foot can rest on the inner thigh. If you move beyond your natural degree of hip opening, there is a tendency to arch the lower back too much, tilting the pelvis out of its most stable alignment. As you enter via tadasana (mountain pose), instead of trying to force open the lifted-leg knee (ultimately this movement comes from the hip), begin by aligning the pelvis. Keeping your hip points facing forward, as the lifted-leg foot moves to either the inner ankle, calf or thigh, externally rotate only as much as you can without taking your hip points with you. Keep your standing leg engaged, hugging the muscles of the inner thigh toward the midline, alongside a mild contraction of the abdominals. Try to avoid resting the foot of your raised leg directly on your knee or at the side of your knee joint.
- Take your time. As with any balancing pose, it’s often more accessible to enter slowly, with a steady gaze and awareness to breath.
- Build from the ground up, anchoring the whole of the standing foot downwards.
- When the balance evolves, find alignment in your hips (forward), tailbone (down) and belly (engaged).
- Allow for a broadness around the collarbones, reaching up through the sides of your waists and extending out of your crown.
- To modify, you could practice with your back facing the wall or explore reclined tree pose to learn more about your hip openness.
- Remember, falling out of balance is part of the journey, so have fun with it!
Like all balancing postures, a calm approach can help build focus and a steady mind. Your palms could rest together in front of the heart in Anjali Mudra (as shown here), or perhaps raised above the head, extending like branches. As you find your centre in tree pose, feel the gentle sway of the body. Just like a tree in the breeze, you’ll grow in confidence, standing tall as you face life’s challenges with grace and ease.
Matt Mulcahy is a London-based yoga teacher (MattMulcahyYoga.com)
Photography by Jen Armstrong (@zenarmstrong)
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