Vrksasana, Tree Pose, may be one of the yoga poses most familiar to people who don’t practice yoga. Stand on one leg, bring the foot of the other leg up on the inside thigh of the standing leg, hands raised overhead, palms pressed together – Tree Pose. Balance, strength, centering, are just a few of the benefits of practicing Vrksasana. Of course, there are many other balance poses, but I teach this one in Leadership Yoga because this deceptively simple pose has a great deal to teach anyone who tries it no matter their level of experience.
Of course, to illustrate the most basic lessons we don’t even have to get it into the posture, all we have to do is stand on one foot. When you can, take off your shoes and socks and stand on a firm surface. Pick one foot up off the ground, ankle height will do, look at a spot on the wall across the room or on the floor about six feet in front of you and stand. Breath slowly and shift your attention to your standing foot. Notice how the muscles in your foot and the tendons in your ankle are moving, shifting ever so slightly to support you. Your body shifts slightly as you inhale and exhale and your foot makes tiny adjustments in response. And you began to realize that any level of balance is not static. It’s certainly not rigid and stiff. It is supple and open. Maintaining balance requires movement, change in response to circumstances, and a supple grace and patience with ourselves.
What I consider the second lesson from tree pose, does require us to try the actual pose. We need to try the awkwardness of opening our hips and lifting our foot further off the ground. It’s fascinating to watch people try any balance pose for the first time. The idea of being off-center on our way to balance causes some people to tense up. People flail their arms, wiggle their leg, stick their tush out or tuck it in tight in a frantic effort to keep that foot off the ground. And yet, the simple lesson of tree pose is, if you are falling out of the pose, just put your foot down. As simple as that. Stop trying so hard to be balanced. Put your foot down on the ground, stand tall, take a breath, and try again.
Just like life. We fall out of balance all the time and we always will. Let’s stop flailing around, come back to what’s most important to us, take a deep breath, and try again. Balance may look different these days, but it’s still important.