Tree Pose: Vriksasana
The tree is a symbol of rootedness and reach, of sturdiness and balance. Trees find nourishment underground, feeding off the earth; they also reach toward the sky, capturing the sunrays. From the smallest seed, the tree shows us how life moves toward growth.
The Tree Pose, Vrksasana, is a powerful asana. By extending from your core (or, appropriately enough, your trunk), and reaching arms toward the sky, you balance on one leg. You will wobble and sway just as trees do in the wind. Allow your eyes to remain fixed on an object in the room to help ground you. Feel the connection to the earth and the sky above, growing upwards and out of your trunk. You will feel the sides of your body become elongated, just as the tree reaches toward the sun for nourishment. Allow yourself to feel nourished, strong, and stable in this pose. As you practice, feel your body becoming still in the pose as you grow out and up while being rooted in the earth.
Vrksasana uses the muscles of the erector spinae, abdominus rectus, obliques, Illiopsoas, hamstrings, gluteus, hip rotators, and the deltoid muscles. It is useful for strengthening the ankles, hips, legs, and back muscles. It tones the pituitary and stimulates the adrenal gland. Like the flow of energy from trunk to leaf, this pose increases circulation and vitality and develops balance, coordination, and concentration. Learning to focus in this pose will extend to other aspects of your life where concentration is needed. The pose also teaches humility, like the humus of the earth from the tree grows; getting into this pose and staying in it requires letting go of ego. When you find your humility, you will become stronger and more powerful.
The Tree of Life is a powerful motif in story and literature. My uncle, Thomas Hanna, PhD–a founder of Somatic Training—wrote the poem that follows this post. (I had the good fortune to live on the property he owned with his partner, Dr. Eleanor Criswell.) Thomas’s writing on the tree of life is simpatico with much of yoga’s philosophy.
The Tree of Life
There is a Tree of life. Its roots sink deeply
into eternity, and its branches reach upward and outward
into the universe.
The branches are resplendent with a chorus of leaves which
sing of the green of growing. The Tree of Life is growing
and the green leaves are its growth and its voice.
Each leaf is unique and each leaf is alike and each leaf
sings of the growing Tree.
From deep within eternity the roots drink Love and send it
coursing through its branches: this is the sustenance of
each leaf. From deep within the universe, Power is
promised, and the branches and leaves grow into this Power
this is the search of each leaf.
Each leaf speaks of Love and of Power, and each leaf finds
its greenness and its growth in this Love and Power.
In the universe each leaf stands out as glorious and separate.
Within the Tree of Life each leaf is the Tree itself and is
the eternity itself.
As eternity’s Love flows into each leaf, so does it grow in
power and shining beauty. As eternity’s Love flows into
each leaf, so does each leaf know its deep and eternal oneness
with the All and with the teeming green chorus of leaves.
I am the leaf and I am the Tree. I am the Love of eternity
and the Power of the universe.
I and we are growing with Love into Power, for to grow in
Love is to grow in Power.
The glory is now and the glory is promised. Let us grow
into that glory.
Thomas Hanna 1928-1990