Tree pose, known as vrksasana or eka pada pranamasana in Sanskrit, is a versatile balancing pose that anyone, from the brand new beginner to the seasoned yogi, can find benefit in. Aside from improving balance, tree pose strengthens the legs, ankles, and feet for a strong and stable lower half.
How to do the Vrksasana Pose
- Begin in mountain pose (tadasana) at the top of the mat. Plant your feet hip distance apart and rest your arms by your sides.
- Ground through your right foot by pressing the four corners of your foot – the right side of your heel, the left side of your heel, the sole of your foot below your big toe, the sole of your foot below your little toe – into the mat.
- Spread your toes as wide as you can. Press all five toes firmly into the mat. Your toes indicate if your weight is spread evenly throughout your foot. If they are gripping the mat, your weight is too far forward. If they lift off the mat, your weight is too far backward.
- Inhale. Press down into the big toe corner of your right foot as you lift the left leg. Position your left foot, toes pointing down, against your right calf or thigh – anywhere but the knee. Press actively into the right leg with the left foot.
- Center your body over your left foot.
- Bring your hands to your chest and place your palms together in anjali mudra.
- Scoop your tailbone towards your belly button. Maintaining the pelvic tilt throughout the pose will protect your lower spine and prevent swayback.
- Exhale. Draw your left knee backward to open the hip.
- Rest your gaze on a stationary point straight ahead and slightly above eye level.
- Inhale. Lift your arms above your head, palms either facing both inward or both outward.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Exhale. Lower your left foot to the mat. Shake out your legs and repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Tips, Photos and Videos for Beginners
Modifications and Props
Start little. If you’re having trouble balancing or if your lifted foot slips down your opposite thigh, start with a baby tree pose. Instead of step four (above), lift your left foot, bend your knee, and point your toes. Plant your toes on the mat beside your right heel and place your left heel against your right leg.
Wide arms. If you’re having trouble keeping your balance in tree pose, widen your arms. In step ten (above), lift your arms above your head, but instead of drawing them towards your ears, extend them to form a “Y” shape with your body.
Bend your base knee. If you have a tendency to hyperextend your knees, protect your joints by slightly bending the knee. As you lift the left leg in step four (above), bend the right knee ever so slightly. Keep it bent throughout the pose.
Do the pose on your back. If you’re having trouble keeping your balance in tree pose, doing the pose supine on the mat lets you focus on drawing the left knee back, opening the hips, achieving a pelvic tilt, and keeping the body centered over the left foot instead. Lying supine on the mat, go through steps four through twelve (above). Keep your right foot flexed throughout.
Practicing tree pose is the best way to establish correct body alignment from head to toe in a standing balance since it is very close to mountain pose. For standing balances like tree pose, eagle pose (garudasana), and raised hand to big toe pose (utthita hasta padangusthasana), preserving the centered, still, lifted spine and the parallel hips from mountain pose is key to correct alignment.
Lifting the arms above the head in this pose throws a heart opener into the mix of balancing pose and lower body strengthener. Widening the arms makes it easier to balance, but also opens your chest further for the calming, joyful benefits of a heart opener.
In a sequence of balancing poses, tree pose is naturally the first. First, it’s easy to move from mountain pose into tree pose. Second, tree pose is less intense than other standing balances because the practitioner can easily modify the pose to suit his or her skill level. Third, the pose is widely practiced in Western yoga and, therefore, the most practiced and comfortable standing balance for many practitioners.
Quadricep muscles. The quadricep muscles cover the front and sides of the femur, making up much of the muscle mass of the thighs. The quads work to stabilize and allow extension of the knee joint. In tree pose, the quads of the base leg engage and strengthen.
Adductor muscles. The adductor muscles are located in the inner thighs. They are responsible for leg movement away from the center of the body as, for example, during a star jump or split. Drawing the knee of the lifted leg back in tree pose lengthens the adductor muscles of that leg.
Hip flexor muscles. The hip flexor muscles are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting in a chair for long periods of time weakens and shortens the hip flexor muscles. Tree pose lengthens these muscles in the lifted leg. Again, drawing the knee of the lifted leg back is key to targeting these muscles.
Triceps surae muscles. The triceps surae muscles consist of the gastrocnemius, in the back of the calf, and the soleus, in the front of the calf. These muscles stabilize the ankles and provide the power when walking and jumping. Tree pose strengthens the triceps surae in the base leg.
Triceps brachii muscles. The triceps brachii muscles are the large muscles on the back of the upper arms responsible for straightening them. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk quickly. Extending your arms above your head in tree pose also strengthens the triceps.