On a walk the other day I was taken by the image of a tree that had lost most of its leaves. They were puddled up around in a circle at the base of the tree. It was a vibrant pile of bright yellow and earthy brown. The exposed branches of the tree were expansive and strong. I could see the abandoned nests tucked in the crooks of the branches, not yet compromised by the wind and other elements. The midday sun was streaming through the naked tree. The light was penetrating all of the open areas between the branches.
I love this image of light shining through trees. It’s a favorite that I like to capture with the phone on my camera, even though the pictures never do the beauty justice. In Spring and Summer you have to be there at just the right time, when the sun is rising or setting, for the sun to make an impact on the dense collection of leaves blocking the path of light. But, in the Fall and Winter the light shines through freely. Without the clutter and distraction of the leaves, the foundation of the tree is easy to see.
Our minds are like the tree, our thoughts are the leaves. When we can let them settle and fall away, we are left with a stripped down, exposed, and naked version of ourselves. In these moments our true Self is easy to see.
Vṛkṣāsana or Tree Pose is our PowerPose of the week and provides an opportunity to focus on balance and hip opening, which we will need for the Peak Pose of this series. It might not seem like much of a challenge, it ranks as one of the easiest postures on Iyengar’s scale. It is, however, a good reminder that the challenge of yoga does not come from the degree of difficulty in the poses, but in the challenge to calm our minds and invite our true spirit to shine.
Try these stages and variations.
Option 1: Kickstand with Hands in Prayer. Standing Tall in Tadasana or Mountain Pose with a long spine, reaching through the crown of the head. Find a drishti, or a gaze at a spot or object that is not moving. Bring attention to the feet. For balancing leg, press into all four corners of the foot, lift through the arch of the foot as if you were suctioning the foot to the floor. Turn the opposite knee out, taking the ball of the foot to the mat. Lift through the heel, press down through the ball of the foot, and press the knee open. Take the arms into prayer in front of the heart, keeping the collarbones broad. Tone the belly and the ribs to the spine. Find balance for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
Option 2: Foot to Calf with Hands to Third Eye. Place the foot on the calf. The arch of the foot, fits nicely along the contour of the leg. Keep the standing leg active as you gently press it and the foot together. Raise the hands to the third eye, gently press the thumbs to the forehead. This will obstruct your drishti, causing you to employ peripheral vision and making balance more challenging.
Option 3: Foot to Inner Thigh with Hands Clasped. Draw the foot higher up the leg. Be sure the place the foot above the knee. Hug the leg and foot together, creating a little heat and gentle tension through the inner thigh and groin. As the foot moves up the leg, the hip can hitch up, gently draw the hip of the bent knee down working to level the hips. Check your pant band in the mirror and try to draw it parallel to the floor. Keeping the spine long and the belly toned, reach the hands behind. Hold the forearms or clasp the hands. Keeping the back open, pull the shoulder blades down the back. Avoid squeezing them together. Opening through the shoulders can cause the belly and ribs to disengage, so check in to make sure they are still integrated.
Option 4: Vṛkṣāsana with Reverse Añjali Mudrā. For more challenge with the opening of the shoulders, place the hand in Reverse Añjali Mudrā. Turn the palms up, bringing the pinkie edge of the hand to the back. At first there may be be a gap between the palms, with just the fingertips making contact. As much as the shoulders allow, press the heels of the hands together. As mobility increases, the hands will come together as if they were in front of the heart. For more challenge, lift the hands higher up the back. Check in with the stability of the pose, levelness of the hips, and the integration of the belly and ribs as you proceed.
As you work on Vṛkṣāsana, find your balance while challenging the openness of the hips and shoulders. More importantly, settle mind, clearing the way for your true Self to be exposed and brought to light. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.