Balance poses, in general, offer a calming effect on the body because of the focus (or drishti) that is needed. In order to maintain your balance, the recommendations are to focus on a non-moving, eye-level (or above) spot, and to breathe steadily. In my opinion, Tree Pose (vrik-SHAHS-anna) is a great pose to start with because of the options for modifying which develop balance and concentration. As the different variations are explored, legs and feet are strengthened providing increased flexibility in the hips. Exploring arm placement can lead to an opening of the chest and toning of the shoulder muscles. I like to practice this while doing the dishes or brushing my teeth at night, in addition to incorporating it into my regular practice.
- To begin, stand in Mountain pose and bring awareness to both feet. Begin to shift your weight onto the right foot, spreading the toes and lifting up through the arch.
- With a soft bend in the right knee, keeping the right leg strong, begin to lift the left foot off the floor, open the knee out, and place the foot on the standing leg (ankle – fig 1; calf – fig 2; thigh – fig 3) with the toes pointing down.
- Press the foot into the standing leg and the standing leg into the foot, and down towards the ground.
- Bring palms together at heart center (fig 1), softening the gaze looking straight ahead, and steady the breath.
- If balance is steady, inhale the arms overhead (fig 3), extending your arms like branches of a tree.
- When complete, exhale release the arms and the foot, standing again in Mountain Pose.
- Repeat on the other side.