Tree pose and toe stand are the last two poses in the standing series of our Gold 90 and Sterling 60 classes. They seem fairly straightforward, but there are some aspects of the tree pose that bear clarification.
The tree pose that we do in our Gold 90 and Sterling 60 classes has the following purpose: To open up the hips, knees and ankles in preparation for toe stand, and eventually, the lotus position.
Compare the woman on the left doing lotus to the woman on the right doing tree pose in the photo below.
Notice how in both poses the feet are near the hip creases, knees are extended away from the center line of the body and feet are turned outward.
Putting your body into lotus can be challenging on the hips, knees and ankles, and like many poses, some people come to it relatively easily while others struggle for a long time to get there. Tree pose is a great way to help prepare the body for lotus.
Tree comes at a point in the series where your body is relatively warmed up. Your knees and hips and ankles have had the opportunity to open, and although your heart may be pounding, you are encouraged to slow down, focus and balance. Not such an easy thing to do!
Here are the steps to execute the pose:
1. Ground yourself in alignment.
2. Pick up your right foot with your left hand and if you need to, hold your right knee with your right hand. Be careful of your knee and your ankle. At any step, if you feel discomfort, proceed with care. If you feel pain, back off.
The goal is to put your foot in your hip crease, but your body proportions may require you to place your foot in a different place!
Look at the images below: The first woman’s foot is on her leg and it may never be on her hip because her shin bone is relatively short and her hips aren’t yet open.
The second woman’s foot is super high on her costume, because her shinbone is really long! Both are doing the posture correctly for their body type and for the condition of their hips, knees and ankles. Tightness in any of these joints may keep you holding on to your foot, and that is perfectly okay!
3. Slowly, gently allow your knee to come down toward the floor. Now remember the lotus pose — the knee is positioned away from the center line of the body approximately 45 degrees — so in tree, it is absolutely appropriate to have your lifted leg positioned away from the body.
The ball and socket of your hip joint may never allow you to position your leg so that it’s parallel to the standing leg and by forcing it, you could injure your hip!
Look at this group shot of people doing tree pose — everyone is trying the right way; no one’s legs are parallel. Not even close!
4. Eventually, when the hip joint and the hip flexors open up enough, you will have two legs in one line FROM THE SIDE like the photo on the left.
5. The last part of the pose is to find alignment on all planes. Stretch your spine up, and stretch your tailbone down to prevent your rear end from sticking out. Look in the mirror and work to get your shoulders level and hips level.
Avoid sinking into the standing hip. The yogi on the right is out of alignment — see how her shoulders are not level and her hips are not yet level? This is common especially when you have to hold your foot. But she’s working toward it and will be there soon!
If you are challenged by tree pose, that’s okay! Start slow, hold on to your knee if you need to, work slowly, take your time, focus on your breath and alignment as best you can. And know that you’ll be on the floor resting very, very soon!