by Karli Taylor
Since it’s finally starting to feel like Spring in Upstate New York, I am taking inspiration from nature for this months article. Instead of two separate poses, we will focus all of our attention on one- Tree pose!
If you’ve ever tripped over a rock or run on uneven ground, you know how important having good balance is. Practicing balancing poses in yoga will help you gain both physical and mental steadiness by improving focus and concentration.
Tree pose, or Vrksasana, is a standing pose that not only promotes balance and focus, but also has both stretching and strengthening benefits.
Tree Pose stretches the inner thighs and hips while building strength in the thighs, ankles, calves and core! If you still need convincing, this seemingly simple pose also helps to remedy flat feet and can be therapeutic for sciatica.
Begin standing with your feet at hips distance apart and your arms at your sides.
Shift your weight to your left foot. Lift and spread your toes and replace them gently on the ground. Try to press into the ground with the mounds at the base of your toes and your heel instead of digging in with your toes. When you feel rooted, find something to focus on that won’t move. As strange as it may sound, looking at the tip of your nose is a good way to find what yogis call a “drishti”, or a focused gaze.
Soften your left ankle so it doesn’t lock or hyper-extend, and start by simply lifting your right foot off of the ground. If you feel stable there, place the sole of your right foot against your left ankle. Still feel solid? Use your hand to draw your right foot alongside your inner left thigh. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only above or below it. Adjust your hips so your right hip and left hip are aligned, and press your right knee back to open your hip flexors.
To help turn on your core, press your foot into your leg and your leg into your foot to create some oppositional forces. Try it and notice your abs instantly tighten up!
The positioning of your hands can make a huge difference in your stability. Start by pressing your palms together in prayer position at your chest, with your thumbs resting on your sternum. Creating that opposition will help your stability the same way it does in the lower body. If you feel stable, raise your arms up over your head and open them to create a Y shape with your body and rotate your palms inward to face each other. If your shoulders are more flexible, you can clasp your hands, turn your palms towards the ceiling and press them upwards.
Once you can hold this position comfortably on each side, try to challenge your balance by first changing your focus to look at a different spot in the room. Eventually, try to hold the pose with your eyes closed.
Balance poses can be frustrating. If you fall out of the pose, take a deep breath to steady your heart rate and start over from the beginning. Patience and self- forgiveness are both additional benefits of practicing balance!Karli Taylor
Karli Taylor: Yoga For Runners Archive
Strengthening Your Back: Baddha Hasta Uttanasana, or Ragdoll
Combating Runner’s Butt - Ardha Matsyendra
Exercises to Help in Stability - Ananda Balasana
Stretching Hip Flexors – Anjaneyasana & Setu Bandha Sarvangasana