Asana – Vrksasana

My favourite asana is undoubtedly the Vrksasana (Tree pose).

From Tadasana, start off with picking up your left knee and sliding the heel against the right leg (as high as one can balance, avoiding the knee) while shifting all the weight onto the right leg. It is important that the knee should open from the hip and be kept in the same plane as the body, both hips should be aligned. Palms can be placed in prayer position in front of the heart, and if one feels very stable here, take a deep inhale to lift arms overhead (you can choose a H-position or in ‘Namaste’ mudra), while shoulders are kept down and back. The gazing point is straight in front, at a distant object. To release the pose, simply lower arms back into prayer position in front of heart and step back into Tadasana. Repeat on the other leg.

This pose strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles and spine. It also stretches the groins, inner thighs, chest and shoulders, while helping to improve balance, concentration and reduces flat feet. Those with recent or chronic knee or hip injury should avoid or be careful in practising this pose, a suggestion is to practise next to a wall for support.

I like that there are so many variations available to suit different levels of practice, from simply keeping the bent leg resting gently on the calf, to transitioning toward a standing half lotus, hands in prayer mode, or extending arms to the ceiling and opening the chest. If you feel stable here, you can eventually practise balancing with eyes closed, and then you will realise how challenging it is to actually balance without a focal point, but at the same time to exercise mental stability without having the outside world as reference. And often this is life, if we cannot find a focal point, it can easily throw our life into disarray. Sometimes we need to withdraw ourselves from external influences and work on our inner serenity to rediscover an equilibrium in life.

There’s something magical in such a seemingly easy pose. I like the sense of grounding, as if I’m a tree, with my foot firmly plant on the ground, my trunk engaged and lengthened, my chest lifted and arms extended like branches reaching beyond the canopy to embrace sunshine. It reminds me to stay grounded, stand tall and straight, while keeping focussed on the goal ahead.

-Nikki Cheong