by Laura Brookover
This is one of the best postures of all to develop a personal sense of balance. It is also a very calming posture, which is very adaptable to individual levels, as there are several different forms of Vrikasana from which to choose. Consult your yoga teacher for the position best suited to your physical state, or try these variations, and see which feels best for you.
This is a nontraditional version of the Tree Pose that feels very comforting and grounding. Use your foot with the ball of the foot on the floor for balance. Realize that our balance changes daily. Both men and women have monthly hormonal cycles. For women, balance and strength is at a peak during ovulation. Pregnancy is the most challenging time for balances, as the body is ever changing and constantly adapting to the changing center of gravity. When we feel wobbling or destabilization during balances, think of this as a blessing. With every wobbly movement, tiny stabilizer muscles all around the joints are being strengthened. In one study, geriatric patients who practiced yoga had 90 percent fewer falling injuries. By intentionally challenging our stability, we have the opportunity to become stronger.
The second version of Tree Pose is performed by placing the curved area of the arch of the foot where it fits most comfortably around the curve of the calf. It is always useful to select a “dristi” while balancing. A “dristi” is a fixed point upon which to place your visual focus. Keeping your gaze focused on your dristi, center the hands in “Anjali Mudra,” also known as “prayer position” or “heart salute.” Bring the awareness to the breath. Count five natural exhales. Very slowly bring the elevated foot back to the ground.
For the advanced Yogi or the very flexible, the “High Tree” position is a nice option. It is practiced in the same manner as the others; however, a common mistake is that, in trying too hard to force a body that might not necessarily have the right structural makeup for this posture, many people end up putting a lot of pressure on the knee joint. If you want to work on “High Tree,” be sure that there is absolutely no contact with any part of your foot and the standing knee. The big toe of the elevated foot should be well above the knee for maximum safety and benefit. A good way to accomplish this is by using the hand to grasp the ankle and place the foot in a very high position on the leg.
Have fun. Laugh at your wobbles! We like to call this posture “Tree in the Breeze” on our less solid days! Namaste.
Laura Brookover is a body-mind trainer. She teaches EmPOWERment Yoga at Destination Maternity, (210) 694-4692, and Bikini Bootcamp at Spectrum, Rogers Ranch, (210) 408-9050. For more information visit her Web site at www.laurabrookover.com. Photography courtesy of Jenn Brookover Photography.