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Finding Balance

My gaze soft, I take on the shape of the trees outside my window. I root my standing foot, relax my jaw and find uijayi breath to quiet my thoughts. With each breath I concentrate on relaxing my shoulders, opening my hips and lengthening through my inner ribs to create space. Hands in prayer, I lift them towards sky, just as the branches do in my front yard. Vrksasana or tree pose is an invitation to connect, to extend our roots deeply into the earth and ground; to find a stable base while standing on one foot. It's also an opportunity to reach towards the heavens or to hold in silent prayer.

To begin Vrksasana, stand with your feet slightly apart, nice and parallel. Lift and spread your toes, then soften and release them to the floor, grounding through the base of the big and little toes and through the center of the heel. Shift the weight onto your left foot, bend the right knee and bring the right foot to rest against the inside of your leg with toes resting on the floor, right foot resting just below the knee, right foot up against the upper leg crease or notched up onto the left hip. Be sure that whichever foot position you choose, that you are not pressing into that nice convenient knee bump, as your knee joint won't be happy. Once foot position is established, square the hips forward and open your right knee out to the side and down. Keep the standing left leg long and strong by lifting the knee and engaging quads. Bring hands to a prayer position and stay here, or extend arms over head. Allow the shoulders to release away from the ears and find a point of focus with a soft gaze.

Check in with the breath. Relax your jaw, tongue and root of the tongue so there is a slight constriction in the back of the throat. Then release the soft palate, which will bring the breath into uijayi or ocean breath. Ujiayi with any of the balance poses keeps monkey mind quiet and focused, contributing to a stronger more stable base on which to stand. Hold for as long as you are comfortable and imagine you are one of the forested ones.

Your body will thank you for working with tree pose as there are many benefits besides the more obvious one of physical balance. It provides balance of mind too, and establishes a solid base on which to stand. It lengthens and strengthens the standing leg and spine, as well as the feet and ankles. Because it is a weight bearing pose, it is good for bone mass and pelvic stability.

Notice what happens in tree pose when you forget mindful breathing, never mind breathing at all! Sometimes we're concentrating so hard on finding all the parts to a pose that breath is forgotten. Explore this pose during different times of the day and start with those times when balance typically comes easier. Practice building up to other times of the day. Don't hesitate to use a wall behind you if that supports you in safely exploring Vrksasana. The key is to have fun with it and explore how to stabilize your body in balance.

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