Trees are beautiful, nourishing, strong, flexible, and provide many of our basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, medicines and tools. Trees also purify the air we breathe via photosynthesis and are essential to life on earth. Tree pose is a basic balancing posture which is deceptively difficult. Young children especially will have challenges with this pose until they develop their ability to balance on one foot (usually around age 5). Tree pose teaches awareness of the mid-line of the body – the vertical axis that runs straight down your body from the crown of your head, bisecting your face & neck, through the center of your core, to the mid point between your feet on the ground. It also teaches basic physics as the arm positions alter the center of gravity.
Tree Pose – Vrksasana
- Stand, feet together; find something on the floor two feet in front of you to focus on
- Extend your arms at shoulder height out to the side (wide center of gravity makes this the easiest arm position for balancing)
- Lift the right foot, turning the knee out; place the right foot above or below the knee
- Imagine your toes are the roots grounding into the earth, your standing leg is the trunk strong and tall, your arms & bent leg are branches reaching outward and upward toward the sun
- To test your balance:
- Bring your arms to Prayer position in front of your heart (narrow center of gravity)
- Raise your arms overhead (narrow and long centre of gravity)
- Look up to your hands (changing the focal point increases the difficulty)
Benefits: strengthens thighs, calves, ankles & spine, stretches the groin, thighs & chest, improves balance, reduces flat feet, develops concentration & mental stability
Often when teaching Tree pose I encourage each participant to become whatever tree they want to be: oak, apple, palm, Christmas, weeping willow. The entire body dynamics change respectively and children are allowed to express their creativity and emotions. You could take this a step further and discuss the symbolism of each tree then have students become physically whatever tree they relate to that day.
- Oak: strength & courage
- Maple: balance, promise & practicality
- Apple: magic, youth, happiness
- Cedar: healing & protection
- Aspen: determination, overcoming fear & doubt
- Fir: springtime & immortality
- Palm: peace & opportunity
- Willow: magic, inner vision, dreams
Tree Pose Partner & Group Variations
Once you have practiced tree pose individually you may want to try these variations.
Partner: Stand facing one another a few feet apart. Both partners lift their right leg and give it to their partner to hold in their left hand. You will make the shape of an H. Balance and then lift the right hand up overhead. You can add a twist at this point by looking over the left shoulder or reaching for your partners right hand and pulling your torso around. Repeat on the other side.
Group: Making a Forest – Have everyone stand in a circle facing inward. Everyone lifts their right foot and gives it to the person to their right to hold. See if you can succeed in linking the entire circle into a forest before someone loses their balance. Repeat with the left leg. This usually results in lots of giggles and then a tumble or two as we lose our balance but is a great way to build unity and cooperation.