This has been a challenging year for all of us. For me, the year began with my father passing away from Parkinson’s disease. A few months after that, Covid hit, and the whole world fell apart. Thank God for my yoga practice. It has kept me grounded, patient, focused, and strong. I am working on a cookbook, homeschooling my two youngest kids, and just finished a half-marathon that I began training for in mid-summer. With so many things on my plate, being grounded and balanced are keys to life for me.
Tree pose is one of the best ways for me to find my footing! Trees have long been considered symbols of longevity, strength, courage, and determination. They show us how grand we can be if we stick to our goals. One little seedling can become a mighty oak tree with enough determination and focus. Trees are also a sign of peace, growth, and reliability, providing a link between God or spirituality and the Earth.
Holy men called sadhus would meditate in this posture for long periods of time as a practice of self-discipline. This ancient, reliable pose is often the first balance posture you learn, since it’s relatively simple and strengthens your legs and spine and opens your thighs and hips. When you practice balancing poses, you learn some practical lessons in how to get grounded, find your center, stay focused, and steady your mind. Plus, the process—falling and trying again—helps develop patience and persistence, humility, and good sense of humor.
- Stand firmly with your feet planted on the ground, back straight, and gaze forward. Put your arms by your side. Be sure to distribute your weight evenly across the soles of both feet.
- Slowly shift your weight onto the left foot, then bend your right knee upward. Rest your right foot along your inner left calf, or reach to grasp your right ankle and guide it to your thigh. Find a comfortable place to rest your foot, either above or below the knee, just not directly over it. Do not lock the standing knee.
- Either keep your hands on your hips or bring them together in a prayer position at chest level. Choose your Drishti, or a point directly in front of you to focus your attention and gaze.
- As you settle into Tree pose, press the right foot into the left leg, and the left leg into the right foot. This will help you find equal pressure and ensures that your hips are squared toward the front.
- When you are stable and steady, breathe in and raise your arms overhead with your fingertips pointing to the sky. You can stay here with palms facing each other, fingertips splayed, or choose to bring the palms together in an overhead prayer position.
- Take 5-10 breaths, the lower your foot and repeat on the other side.
- Don’t worry if one side is more comfortable than the other one. That’s why it’s called a yoga practice! It’s not uncommon for the body to be unbalanced or off-centered. The goal is to work on strengthening and balancing both sides of the body.