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March 31, 2020 7 min read

“Trees have something to say to us…In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.”  

Hermann Hesse (read the full passage below)

 

 

In these times of worry and uncertainty, there is a yoga pose that can help us to feel steady, calm, and connected: Tree Pose or Vrksasana.

 

It's my favourite pose.  I love balancing on one strong leg, focusing on a single point, trying to stay still and solid in my centre as I raise my arms to the sky.  It’s like creating a connection between universe and earth. 

 

Balancing in Tree Pose, you can image that your standing foot has strong and deep roots that solidly ground and steady you. Like a tree, you can imagine your roots also connect you with others all around you, whether you can see them or not.  While you are rooting down, your hands reach to the sky, like branches they reach for the light and nourishment, they reach for the stars. You can be playful in tree pose, wave your branches, balancing and swaying like a tree in the wind, solidly grounded by your roots. All the while, breathing mindfully into your trunk, aware of each free movement, each connection. I feel like I can breath fully in Tree Pose.  

 

It’s wonderful to do Tree Pose in the company of trees, in your yard, a park, a forest. We’ve visited a lot of forests around the world. I’ve done a lot of tree poses… My most memorable Tree Pose was in a forest of old-growth redwoods. I felt (or perhaps imagined) the power and incredible stamina of a forest of centuries-old trees. Magical. Beautiful.

 

We can learn a lot in the company of trees. To me, trees stand for strength, steadiness, flexibility, comfort and wisdom. I love that they grow together in communities in their forests and woods, each tree independent and unique and also invisibly interconnected through their roots with everything that surrounds them.  Peaceful. Harmonious. Like us, they communicate through their senses, their sense of smell and taste. They have a sense of time, knowing just when to loosen their sap, to begin to bud or to let go of their leaves. And they care for each other in times of need. They carry ancient wisdom in their cells.   


Why not try a Tree Pose today? You can do it anywhere. No mat required. It takes just a couple of minutes. And you will feel instantly calm.

 

 

HERE IS HOW TO MINDFULLY PRACTICE TREE POSE

It’s hard to do Tree Pose if you are not focusing on the present moment. The second your mind wanders is when you will wobble and fall out of it. It’s an opportunity to deepen your awareness and connection to the present moment.

 

  • Stand in Mountain Pose, feet hip width apart and parallel.  Raise all ten toes, then spread them wide and place them back down on the floor.  Feel your feet firmly planted on the floor.  Engage your legs by lifting your knee caps.  Engage your core by gently pulling your abdominal muscles towards your spine.  Relax your shoulders.  Arms at your side.  Feel yourself standing tall and strong, with dignity.
  • And breath.  Notice how you feel in this moment.
  • Find one single unmoving spot to focus your gaze.  This is the KEY to balancing in the pose.
  • Begin to feel all the weight of your body shift into your right foot in a steady flow from one side of your body to the other, like sand in an hour glass.  Feel grounded and solid in that right foot. 
  • Bend your left knee till the tip of your left toe is on the floor.  Turn your left knee out towards the left side.  
  • Now raise your left foot off the floor and place it on your ankle, your shin, or take hold of it and place it high on your thigh.
  • Bring both hands together at heart centre, in prayer position.
  • Press your foot your leg, press your hands together into the mid-line.
  • Don’t forget to breathe….and keep your gaze on your focal point.
  • When you are ready, raise your hands overhead, reaching to the sky.
  • Keep breathing.  Stay in this balancing pose as long as you can.
  • Notice how you feel.  Notice the connections between all parts of your body.  Stay focused.
  • If you fall out, don’t judge yourself, just begin again.  Falling and wobbling is good!  It’s your mind practicing staying focused and you body working hard to use all its tools to keep you in balance.
  • Now gently bring your knee towards the front and release your foot down to the floor, back to Mountain Pose.
  • Notice now how you feel from side to side.  Is there any difference?
  • And begin again on the opposite side, shifting all your weight into your left foot.
As your practice, take a moment in Tree Pose to appreciate your own unique and beautiful self. Remembering that a healthy forest needs all kinds of trees!

     

    TIP - Start by stepping up onto a Yoga Block

    Balancing on one foot isn't easy for everyone, and that's ok!  I teach yoga to a group of beautiful beginner yoginis (all 80+, we laugh a lot).  Even a simple version Tree Pose is a real challenge for them.  The balancing seems is easier if we work up to it.  We start by putting a cork yoga block on the floor and simply step up onto it, and stand there on one foot, the other foot is just along side it in the air.  Stepping up and down and staying balanced on the block makes it easier to then stand on one foot in Tree Pose.

     

    FOR MORE INSPIRATION, REFLECTIONS ON TREES FROM WANDERING: NOTES AND SKETCHES, by Hermann Hesse

    “For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

     

    Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

     

    A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

     

    A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

     

    When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

     

    A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

     

    So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”


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