Tree pose (vrksasana in sanskrit) is one of the most famous balancing yoga postures there is. A quick search on Google will present you with hundreds of people doing their best tree pose on beaches, in woodlands, up mountains and even in city streets.
Tree pose has a number of benefits. Having to balance encourages you to concentrate, boosting your mental focus. It also builds strength in your standing leg (after you come out of this pose, you might notice that your standing leg feels heavier, almost like that of a tree trunk) and it'll strengthen the arches in your feet.
It looks super graceful, but perfecting tree pose takes a lot of practice. If you're not balanced, you'll be swinging and swaying more than a palm tree in a hurricane.
If this sounds familiar, take a look at the tips below to help you root down into the earth and blossom into a beautiful tree.
Step 1: Steady your gaze
You'll never be able to balance if your eyes are flitting around the room or you're watching something that's moving. To help you balance, fix your gaze on a steady point on the floor, roughly about 8ft in front of you. Keep your gaze here throughout the pose and notice how much better you're able to balance.
Concentration is also key - you might notice that you lose your balance as soon as your mind starts to wander. Don't worry if this happens - the more you practice, the more you'll develop your ability to focus for longer periods of time.
In time, you might notice that you're better able to concentrate on tasks even when you're not on your mat - for example when you've got a report at work to finish, or need to complete a project at home.
2. Choose the best pose for you
While pictures online would have us believe that the perfect tree is with our foot up in our groin, this isn't the case. There's a whole load of options and you just need to find the right one that suits your body best.
Option one: Bring your heel just above the ankle of your standing leg, keeping your toes on the floor.
Option two: Bring the sole of your foot onto the shin of your standing leg
Option three: Bring the sole of your foot onto your thigh of your standing leg
Option four: Bring your foot at the top of your thigh on your standing leg, close to your groin.
Never place your foot onto your knee of the standing leg as this puts the joint at risk.
As you can see, the great thing about tree is that there's plenty of room for progression.
3. Focus on your breath
Once your gaze is steady and you've decided on the best version of the pose for your body, bring your awareness back to your breath. Focussing on your inhalation and exhalation will help to keep your mind in the present moment.
4. Find a comfortable position for your hands
Standing on one leg can be challenging enough without having to lift your hands over your head too. The good news is that there are plenty of options when it comes to your hand position in tree.
If you have shoulder issues or low blood pressure, I'd advise keeping your hands in a prayer position at your chest. This is much easier on the shoulders and you can focus on keeping your balance in the pose instead.
The next step would be to lift your hands over your head. You can either keep your palms together in a prayer position (crossing your thumbs will help to keep your arms straighter), or if this feels too tight for your shoulders, keep the palms shoulder-width apart.