Tree Pose and the Challenge to Stay Present

Vrikshasana or Tree Pose is an asana that improves one’s sense of balance and coordination and builds strength in the thighs, ankles, and calves.

  

To get into the Tree Pose, you start from Tadasana or Mountain Pose and slowly shift your weight to one of the legs, say the left leg, while slowly bending the right knee and placing the right foot to the inner thigh or in half lotus position. The arms are typically raised above the head, with the palms in prayer position or Anjali mudra. You hold your gaze forward or upward. 

 

 

In most days, it can be a struggle for me to stay in standing balancing poses like the Tree Pose. Once my gaze shifts away from a drishti or I cling onto a thought that enters my head, my standing leg loses strength, my bent knee slips down. I wobble. I fall. 

 

 

Trees are an apt reminder for me to stay in the present. As Courtney Hollender, a scientist studying Horticulture in Michigan State University says in this article, Bent into shape: The rules of tree form, “Trees [Plants] are stuck. The best they can do is grow toward something…That’s all they’ve got; they can’t run, they have to adapt to their environment.” 

 

The same article states that trees adapt so readily to their environment while “grappling with gravity, fighting for sunlight, all while being anchored in one place for a lifetime.” 

 

In classes, I’m constantly reminded by Masters Sree and Paalu, with their uncanny ability to understand my current state, to bring my thoughts back to the class. There would be moments when my nerves would get ahead of me when I practice instruction or when I would be moving behind or ahead of cues. Obviously, I was not fully present during those moments. Instead of being a tree, firmly rooted in the ground, I was a pollen drifting in the wind. 

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed me of the ability to travel and cross borders but it has gifted me with the opportunity to ground us in the present. For someone who finds solace in travel, it took a while for me to embrace this new reality. I take inspiration from trees now and remind myself that just because I am stuck in one place, it does not mean that I cannot grow. 

 

These days, whenever my mind is unmoored and or my body is out of balance, I stand in tree pose and root myself in the present. Or I stare at trees.