Be the tree

Many of the postures we practice in yoga are named after and based on the natural world, with poses such as crow, camel, eagle and downward facing dog to name just a few. That’s because the ancient yogis spent a lot of time observing the natural world around them and recognised qualities there that they knew we would do well to imitate and bring into our lives.

They further believed that our feet and legs are the roots of our bodies, which keep us firmly grounded when we have to weather the storms that life bring our way. Finding our stability we also start to work on balancing and grounding the first chakra or ‘Muladhara’ (in Sanskrit literally meaning to ‘root down’) which is located at the base of the spine.

I don’t know about you, but for me this time of the year always feels completely chaotic, as though I’m rushing towards some impossible (more often than not, self-imposed) deadline to fit everything in and get it all done before the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve. It’s as though our feet barely touch the ground as we’re rushing from one thing to the next, and we seem to spend all our time in our heads and very little time in our bodies, connecting to the breath and to the here and now.

If you are feeling particularly ungrounded at the moment, try to bring a lot of standing postures into your yoga practice, reconnecting with your roots through your feet and legs and focusing the mind by taking deep, smooth breaths. Try practising tree pose, or Vrksasana which is a perfect metaphor for illustrating that when we ground down through our roots, we can find stillness and stability within, no matter what’s going on outside of us.

How to do Tree Pose

Start by shifting the weight of the body on to the right foot. Keep your hands on your waist at first, to help with your balance. Begin rotating and opening the left hip towards the left. If you are a beginner, you can simply rest the left toes on the floor or on a yoga block beside the right foot. Taking the pose a bit further, rest the sole of the foot against the inside of the left leg, below the knee. Make sure to never place the foot directly on the knee joint, as this may cause injury to the knee. And finally, bring the foot right up into the root of the thigh and find your balance here, by strongly pressing the foot against the thigh and vice versa. Keep your gaze fixed on a spot on the floor in front of you or straight ahead of you. Slowly start bringing the hands into prayer pose in front of the heart and from here slowly raise them up overhead. If you feel steady, you can extend the arms outwards away from the body, like the branches of a tree and voilà! suddenly you become the tree. To come out of the pose, once again bring the palms to touch overhead and draw them down to the heart. Release the foot and repeat on the other side.