In this month’s yoga master class, Yoga Ru is helping us learn how to master tree pose
The sun is finally making a brave appearance and spring is in the air. What better way to celebrate the brighter days than by adding Tree Pose to your practice?
Tree Pose teaches us the principles of digging deep and rooting down. It may seem like a simple enough pose but it has lots to offer. It builds focus and improves your coordination. And it stretches the inner groin, arms and shoulders. And it strengthens the core, hip flexors and glutes. It is also very strengthening on the ankle joint and is a great pose for runners to incorporate into their pre-run warm up.
With 26 bones, 25 joints and 33 muscles our feet are designed to support the weight of the whole body. Your feet get tired and sore because the bones are being squashed together when you wear shoes, because the muscles are being bypassed by arch support. Whilst I’m not quite suggesting you turn you back on wearing conventional shoes, getting barefoot and onto your yoga mat is the best thing you can do for your feet. It allows your feet to spread to their natural shape and realign the bones.
Prepping for tree pose
After your warm up, come to a standing position and explore the three points of each foot: the ball of the big toe, ball of the little toe and middle of the heel. Root down into them equally, while at the same time feeling a lift in the three arches of each foot. When we root down into these three points, the arches natural lift into a triangular dome shape. This action is called Pada Bandha (foot energy lock). It brings an awakening and energy to the leg muscles that travels up the entire body.
Building strong and flexible feet will help you find your foundation in your yoga practice, cultivating a flow of energy from the ground up. You’ll find that when you take time to focus on the placement of your feet, the ‘rooting-down’ effect will naturally help you achieve better alignment in all standing poses. Having an awareness and appreciation of your feet will not only benefit your yoga practice but also your day-to-day movement and activities.
How to master tree pose
This sequence will bring you through a progression of poses to prepare you for tree pose. It will strengthen the core, hip flexors and glutes and stretch out the inner groin. You will come into Tree Pose twice, once at the end of each standing flow. When you arrive into each standing pose bring your attention to the placement of your feet. Scan through the three points of your feet and find the connection to your sticky mat. When you press into these three points you will feel the three arches lifting and a strong suction drawing you down and projecting you up at the same time.
The following are some alignment cues to help you get into the pose with ease. Read through them and spend a bit of time in your tree pose.
- From Tadasana, hands on hips, inhale, pour your weight into your left foot, draw your navel towards your spine.
- Bend your right knee and open your hip out to the side, place your right foot on your right calf, or at the top inside of your left thigh.
- Press your right foot against your inner left thigh and your thigh into your foot.
- Place your hands on your hip bones to check they are level, press firmly into the standing leg, exhale here.
- Lengthen through your spine to the tip of your crown, bring your hands to prayer position, inhale, raise your hands up over your head, broaden your collarbones gaze forward.
Top tips to master tree pose
- It can help to lift up all five toes of the standing leg and placing them down one at a time to broaden the base of your foot and help you find a solid foundation before you come into the full pose.
- Pick an unmovable point, called your ‘dristi’, to focus on, which will help you find your balance.
- When in the full pose squeeze the glute of the lifted leg to help open the hip out to the side.
- Look for length from the inner groin to the outer knee of the lifted leg.
- We all have wobbly days. There is no shame in using a wall for support if your balance just isn’t with you today. You might find if you are a bit kinder to yourself and use the wall, the next time you try the sequence you will calmly find your best tree ever!
Ruth Delahunty is a 200hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher and founder of Yogaru.ie, a yoga lifestyle website that promotes a yoga way of living both on and off the mat. For more information visit yogaru.ie.