Benefits of the Pose: Vrksasana (Tree)

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.


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Benefits of the pose: Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Yoga‬, or actually ‪‎asana‬, doesn’t mean you HAVE to wrap yourself into a pretzel, or look like the models on the front of the yoga magazine (any magazine for that matter) or eat a certain diet. It’s about surrender. It’s about love and life. It’s about taking time for yourself. It’s about calming the body and mind. It’s about doing what feels good in YOUR body. Ultimately, it’s about preparing yourself for meditation and being with your true self, bowing down to your higher self. Balasana (BAH-las-anna), or child’s pose, is a basic kneeling forward bend, bowing and surrendering.

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Benefits of the pose: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

I always tell my students that you will have a love/hate relationship with Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana ‘AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna’). As a beginner, you will hate it. It is considered a resting pose, but won’t feel like one until you build up strength in your shoulders and core. The love relationship will come when you realize how it lengthens, strengthens and stretches the whole body, especially the back part of the body: ankles, calves, hamstrings, upper back and shoulders.

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Benefits of the pose: Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

In a previous post, I talked about Lengthening your spine, and we will expand on that practice here in a standing posture called Mountain Pose (Tadasana ‘tah-DAHS-anna). I consider this pose the base standing poses. Tadasana is where you stand strong and grounded through the legs while lifting and expanding upward with the chest and head. It is the simplest example of “root down, rise up,” completing the cycle of complementary forces.

Whether I’m teaching beginners or practicing on my own, I take the time to guide the class or myself through Tadasana. It’s important to get grounded right at the beginning of a flow class. When the feet and legs are awakened and connected to the mat, there is more stability, awareness and balance as the body flows through the rest of the practice. As the legs are engaged and drawing up energy from the earth, the upper body has the lightness and energy it needs to expand and open.

Here are some basic instructions for Tadasana:

  1. Standing with feet hip distance apart, toes pointing forward, lift and spread the toes, then press them back down.
  2. With a soft bend in the knees, rock back and forth on the feet until you feel balanced.
  3. Engage the muscles of the legs, as if they were hugging the bones, lifting the kneecaps up.
  4. Draw your low belly in and lengthen the tailbone down, lengthening the low back, without strain.
  5. Imagine a ribbon tying the low ribs together, so that the chest doesn’t puff out.
  6. Draw the shoulder blades together, and shoulders melt away from ears.
  7. Arms are extended and soft, and palms are facing forward as you gently reach up through the crown of the head, keeping the chin parallel with the floor.

If you would prefer an audio version, click here.

The lift in the chest you want to feel is not like your trying to puff it out (or stick out the breasts), it’s the feeling when you practiced lengthening your spine from seated. Take a moment and revisit the seated version, and then practice it standing. Variations are: palms together at heart, arms relaxed by sides palms forward or facing thighs, or part of a sun salutations with arms extended overhead with shoulders relaxed.

A few of the physical benefits are: strengthening the muscles of the feet, ankles, quadriceps, and abdominals; allowing the ankle, hip, shoulder and wrist joints to be in neutral positions, creating space for the lungs to fully expand with air.

You can practice Tadasana any time, any place, any amount of time: while doing the dishes, standing in the check-out line at the store, or taking a standing break while at work. It may seem too simple, and it is, but the benefits of standing taller and aware, breathing in a sense of calm and contentment, give a sense of confidence that comes as we connect the physical body with the spirit body.

The mountain is a symbol of integration of life: fully grounded, yet rising beyond.