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Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
With Dr Kiki Morriss
Tree pose is both a balancing pose and a hip opener. It will improve the strength, flexibility and stability of your main joints, whilst calming your mind and balancing your nervous system.
Moving into the pose
- Start in Mountain Pose.
- Transfer weight onto your left foot.
- Lift your right foot and place it on the inside of your left inner thigh.
- Use your right hand to guide your right foot into place.
- Your right knee should be bent and pointing out to the right side.
- Place your hands in prayer position at your chest.
- Lift your hands in prayer position above your head.
- Hold the pose and breathe 5-10 times.
- Return to Mountain Pose.
- Repeat on the other side.
Focus your gaze
- Your focal point (drishti) is at a fixed point straight ahead of you. This will help you to balance.
- Use your hamstrings to bend your knee.
- Use your psoas and sartorius muscles to flex, abduct and rotate the hip of your bent leg.
- Use your gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata of your bent leg to move your knee to the side.
- Place your foot on your inner thigh rather than on the inside of your knee.
- Use your quadricep muscles to straighten your standing leg.
- Your gluteus medius will contract automatically when you balance on one leg.
- Keep your hips level with one another.
- Use your gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata to stabilise your pelvis.
Hands and arms
- Use your deltoids to lift your arms above your head.
- Use your triceps to straighten your arms.
- Engage your infraspinatus muscles to externally rotate your upper arms.
- Press your palms together.
- Keep your fingers and thumbs together.
Neck and shoulders
- As you lift your arms, try not to lift your shoulders up as well.
- Soften your shoulders away from your neck using the lower third of your trapezius muscle to create space and to release tension.
- Move your shoulder blades down your back.
- Lengthen upwards through your spine from your coccyx to the place where your spine articulates with your skull.
- Engage your lower back to keep your hips level.
- Lengthen the sides of your torso.
Head and neck
- Keep your chin parallel to the ground and lengthen the back of your neck.
Insights in tree pose
- Practice the pose every day and reflect on these words of Dr Timothy McCall: “One of the fundamental principles of yoga is that a small action done repeatedly can make an enormous difference.”
- Improves strength, flexibility and stability of the main joints.
- Improves balance.
- Improves posture and alignment.
- Calms and focuses the mind.
- Balances the autonomic nervous system - creating a shift from the fight/flight/fright response of the sympathetic nervous system to the rest/digest/heal response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Modifications and contraindications
- If you have high blood pressure, hold your hands in Prayer Pose in front of your chest.
- If you are struggling to balance, try holding onto a wall, a chair or a friend. Alternatively, place your foot on your lower inner leg rather than your inner thigh.
- Practice with caution if you have back, shoulder, hip, knee or ankle issues.
“In whatever position one is in, or in whatever condition in life one is place, one must find balance. Balance is the state of the present – the here and now. If you balance in the present, you are living in Eternity.” B.K.S. Iyengar