Yoga Bites appears every four weeks.
Ask non-yogis if they know any yoga, and they will invariably come into Tree Pose, standing on one foot with the other tucked to the inner leg, arms raised overhead. This recognizable pose strengthens your legs and spine, opens your thighs and hips, builds balance, and increases confidence.
In honor of spring’s gifts of renewal let’s be a tree. This standing balance posture can be practiced with a wall, chair, or tree nearby if you would like support. Plant your feet down by spreading and grounding your toes as you root into the four corners of your feet. The front of your thighs, knees, and shins should be in line with your second and third toes in from the biggies.
With your palms together over your heart, press down into one foot as you inhale, the opposite knee up in front of you. Lightly draw your low belly, low back, and pelvic floor muscles in and up. Scoop your tailbone down and forward to align your pelvis at neutral. Aspire skyward through your crown, reaching for the golden sun.
Imagine that you are sending roots down through your foot to the ground and deep into the Earth. Activate and lift your standing foot’s inner ankle and inner arch, zip this energy up the inside of your leg, and lengthen up through your spine. Gently open the bent leg out to your side and rest your sole on the inner thigh, calf, or ankle (toes may even touch the floor). Avoid placing your foot on your knee as we don’t want to push that joint sideways.
Keep hugging in to center with muscular energy while finding ease and length with every breath. Rest your eyes on one spot, gazing with a soft focus. Breathe as you express and offer anything you wish here. Lift your arms and branch out. Sway in the breeze, host a bird, bloom. Open your heart and arms to the sky in a universal yes! If you fall, simply try again. We are building more than strength and suppleness; we’re also developing patience, persistence, humility, and good humor. Stay here for five deep breaths or more, then switch sides. By the way, it is very common to feel fairly different side to side.
If you’d like more of a challenge try turning your gaze up to the sky or close your eyes all together. You might also stand on a squishy surface like sand or grass, or fold your mat a few times and give your ankles the workout they really crave. Observe how the breath and inner state affect your balance. It becomes mighty difficult to stay centered and balanced when the breath is sporadic and the mind is scattered. Try tree pose with a friend by facing the same direction, standing legs together, an arm around the other’s waist, and opposite knees and arms up.
To increase the benefits of tree pose include the following meditation, or simply sit comfortably and practice this visualization alone as tree pose for the brain. Visualize yourself standing in a lush, green forest surrounded by all different kinds of trees and plants. Take a moment to imagine your green environment; all of the various trees, plants, foliage, vibrant green leaves, many shades of luminous green. As you breathe naturally and deeply imagine that you are inhaling the grounding, calming, healing energy of the verdant forest. You might picture yourself inhaling emerald green light into your belly, infusing every cell in your body with the forest’s energy. As you exhale, dispel any stress or tension out into the dense forest to be transmuted into energy for the plants and trees. Enjoy this for as long as you like.