Namaste everyone! With nature finally awake, Vrksasana – Tree Pose would be a wonderful pose to practice in more detail this month. As you all probably know, Vrksasana is a balancing pose where we need to root down through one foot in order to stretch up and grow tall. But did you also know that if this pose is aligned correctly, it is a great hip opener as well.
Join me now to align and refine our Vrksasana:
How to get into the pose:
(notice in the middle picture how one arm is not straight. It is better for me to practice the pose with arms apart)
- Stand steady and tall in Tadasana – Mountain pose. Bring your awareness into your feet:
-how is your weight distributed in your feet?
– is it more in one foot or the other?
-can you feel the weight more in the toes or in the heels?
Ideally the weight should be evenly distributed through both feet. There should not be any leaning forward or backward, so try to have your weight at the front part of your heels.
After this tuning in, you are ready for the first step….
Shift your weight into your right foot, bend your left knee, take this knee out to the left side and place the sole of the left foot high up on the inside of your right thigh. The toes will be pointing down to the floor.
(If balance is an issue, you can have the left foot lower on the inside of the right leg, even all the way down so that the toes rest on the floor and the heel is on the inner right leg. Just make sure you are not placing the left foot onto the inner right knee)
- Bring your hands into prayer position in front of your chest. As you press your palms together, lift and open your chest.
- If you feel balanced here, bring your hands overhead with your hands still in prayer position. If you cannot keep your arms straight though, separate the hands so the arms are parallel to each other
- Stay in the pose for 30 seconds. Exhale to return back to Tadasana and repeat for balancing on the left foot.
Align and refine the pose:
- Strongly root down the standing foot and lift up through the standing leg.
- For stability press the lifted foot into the inner thigh of the standing leg and press this thigh back into the raised foot.
- Don’t let the outer hip of the standing leg push out to the side. If this happens to you, notice how the inner side of the standing foot gets light. So, strongly press into the ball of the big toe of the standing foot. This will help move the outer hip back to the midline of the body.
(In the first photo the standing foot side hip is jutting out to the side. My inner foot is not rooting down strongly. In the second photo I’m really trying to root the inner foot, especially the ball of the big toe to get the outer hip into the body)
- Keep the hips level but also have the frontal hipbones in the same plane. It is very common to turn the hips towards to the bent leg side to bring the raised knee further back. This is not a correct way of practicing the pose. Here the hip opening comes in. Keep both hipbones facing forward and without disturbing this, bring the raised knee back. It is very helpful to reach out through the inner knee and pull the outer knee back to its outer hip..
(I placed my hands on the frontal hipbones to make the turning of the pelvis toward the raised knee more obvious. In the second photo I aligned the hipbones. The raised knee now is more forward than in the previous photo)
- In this variation you can take the balance issue out of the pose and work on the hip opening aspect:
Stand in Vrksasana and have your raised knee pressing into the wall. Then reach the inner knee strongly into the wall and pull the outer knee back to the outer hip. This will help with getting the knee further back.
- As you reach up through the arms, allow the sides of your trunk to lengthen. Make sure not to hunch the shoulders.
- Yoga, The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira and Shyam Mehta, published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 1990
- Inspiration through the Iyengar Yoga Classes that I attend
Katja Huiras is a 500 hr certified Yoga teacher who teaches alignment based yoga classes in the Lehigh Valley. In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.