The balancing poses in yoga can be some of the most challenging for us. Not that they are as physically "hard" as some of the others, but when we're in a yoga class, they are poses you can't really fake your way through! We can do Warrior or Triangle halfway and our classmates might not notice. But falling out of balances are pretty obvious, right?! And of course, we're not supposed to be comparing ourselves to others or judging our own performance! Performance anxiety in class does not generally add to our ability to calmly pull the balances off, so actually, balancing poses are a great opportunity to focus our attention inward - where we'd like it to be through all the class!
Vrksasana, Tree pose, is a wonderful place to begin with balance. The physical benefits (beyond working on your balance) include strengthening the legs and ankles, opening the hips and stretching the side body. Plus, standing on one leg is great for increasing bone density! You can read the study synopsis here. They call it unipedal standing...but that's what we do in Tree! This isn't an instructional post, tho. If you are interested in how to do Vrksasana, come to a class, or find instructions here.
Instead, let's think about creative ways to learn from Tree Pose. Start with roots. The roots of a tree provide it stability throughout its life. It anchors the tree in the earth, allowing it to grow straight and strong. Roots also absorb, and sometimes store, nutrients the tree needs to live and serve as the transporter of these nutrients to the main body of the tree. As you begin in Tree Pose, consider the anchors of your life. What are the things, who are the people, what are the beliefs that serve as the stable foundations of your life? Can you bring the awareness of that stability to your pose? Can you feel gratitude for the things that feed your body, mind and spirit?
Think of the tree trunk, branches and leaves or needles next. Yes, they seem solid and steady in general. In the wind tho, the leaves and branches certainly sway. But if we watch, even the trunk moves with the winds. There isn't a fight, there is flexibility, a working with another force. Can you bring this flexibility and acceptance to your Tree pose? Can you trust when you sway? Is there a way to work with what seems to be opposition?
And this time of year the trees show us another trait that we might consider in our lives - the ability to gently and beautifully let go of things whose time has come to move on. The tree is not hurt as it drops its leaves. The leaves serve as compost, feeding the tree to continue its growth. It rejuvenates itself and bursts forth again. As you emulate the tree, what thoughts, possessions, habits, relationships, beliefs are ready to be released? Can you let them go? Maybe even with gratitude that they are what brought you this far, what have helped you grow? And trust in the new growth that awaits you?
Yes, all this in Vrksasana! And in your life. Namaste.