Tree Pose

“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.  The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”   BKS Iyengar

Tree Pose

YOGA AND THE TREE

Since ancient times and across all cultures the tree has been considered sacred. The inherent qualities of the tree are generosity, forbearance, balance, strength, flexibility and tolerance.  All parts of the tree are useful….roots, bark, branches, sap, leaves, flowers, and fruits…shelter, fuel, oxygen and protection.
From a Yogic perspective the roots represent the foundations of integrity and truth, the trunk represents a dedicated practice and the branches are the asanas and postures.  The bark is the protection needed when the mind detaches from the body and focuses inward and the sap is the concentration of the juice of energy at the core of being.  Leaves are related to the lungs and breath.  The flowers are meditation and the fruits are the attainment of freedom, poise and peacefulness.
Within a seed is a spark of potential which holds all the wisdom of the mature tree.  A balance is needed; as above so below.  Also between strength and flexibility; if the wood is too rigid it will be brittle, too flexible and it will not support it’s own growth.  As you practise the Tree pose, you may like to personalise what the tree means to you.

Vrksasana – Tree pose
     
Benefits:
Strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles and spine.
Stretches the groins, inner thighs, chest and shoulders.
Improves balance, relieves sciatica and reduces flat feet.
Soothes the mind and nervous system, develops confidence and concentration.
*Avoid if suffering from headache, insomnia, low blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure do not raise the arms.

*If you are not sure about your balance, begin by practising with your back 1cm away from the wall. Not so that you are leaning against it, but having it there if you start to lose your balance.
Standing firmly on your left foot, activate the muscles of the leg to be firm and strong like a trunk.
Bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot against the inner left thigh, with the toes pointing toward the floor.
Bring your awareness to the right knee and let it move slightly back to open the right hip.
Place the palms of the hands together in prayer position, level with the heart.
Broaden through the collarbones and let the shoulders release down, expand through the chest as you breathe through the nose and relax the facial muscles.  Focusing softly on a point in the distance at eye level helps to gain stability in the posture.
As the tree grows up towards the light of the sky, imagine the light of your heart center radiating outwardly.

Tree Pose Hold for 5 – 10 breaths, release the arms and the leg and repeat for the other side.
*If you cannot place the foot against the inner thigh, try placing the arch of the foot against the inner knee, cradling rather than pushing into the knee joint.
If balancing is a challenge you may have the right big toe resting on the floor, whilst maintaining to hold most of your weight through the standing leg.
*If you want to take the pose further; you may raise the arms above the head keeping the palms together.

Tree PoseThen separating the hands and fingers, stretch the arms outward like the branches of a tree.
Even though you are stretching up through the arms; try to maintain the shoulders releasing away from the ears, and the chest opening and expanding.

Tree Pose - Vrksasana *Notice how, when you concentrate on balancing, you must still and free the mind from distractions in order to maintain stability.  This is one of the great benefits of practising Tree pose.

Aries = Head

When the sun moves into Aries, it is the beginning of the new Astrological year.  It is Spring in the Northern hemisphere and the Autumnal equinox in the Southern hemisphere.  The corresponding body part for Aries is the head.  The head is where the brain resides;  central station for the majority of information collected by the five senses, and where it is translated into the experience of thoughts, feelings and perceptions.

Where and how are you looking?

The features of the face are the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, forehead, jaw and cheekbones.  It is the mask that we present to the world. The eyes are the windows to the soul and can reveal much about the body through the study of Iridology.  The markings in the iris reflect the condition of the various organs of the body. When practicing yoga the eyes should be open with a relaxed and consistent gaze at eye level.  If the gaze is towards the floor, we are often reflecting on past events.  If the eyes are looking up we tend to be speculating on the future.  Observe this in your practice as well as your daily life.  Soften your gaze and endeavor to remain alert and aware; in the present moment.  

The muscles of the brow, forehead and the cheekbones are exercised in conjunction with almost every motion of the face and exhibit chronic feelings and tension brought about through thinking and rationality.  Try to bring awareness to your facial expressions whilst practicing Yoga, aim for a relaxed and gentle continence.  Breathe through your nose at all times.  If you are struggling; bring your awareness to focus on releasing any tension with your exhalation breath.  Your mouth should be closed with a relaxed jaw.

The bearing of the head reflects directly the ego.  For example the person whose head is forward of the body approaches life through the rational self initially; followed by the body or the feelings.  If you are wondering about your head’s position in upright postures you can generally drop the chin slightly so the base of the skull lifts, slightly lengthening the back of the neck.  Imagine a thread lifting from the crown of your head to achieve this.

Aries Themes

The symbol of Aries is the Ram, a creature known for charging in head first.  The planet associated with Aries is Mars, it has a fiery and active energy.  Courageous and inspired; the Aries individual leads the way, forging ahead for others to follow.  Whilst the sun travels  through the sign of Aries we may feel compelled to act, connecting with a raw and vital energy to instigate new ventures.  This assertive energy of outward action needs to be counterbalanced with the internal path of self exploration.  Remember the power of inaction and take the time to also relax this month.

Remember to Relax, and rest the Head 

Savasana or Corpse pose is the ultimate in surrender.  Don’t forget to include it in your home practice.  Make sure that you support your head and neck, when reclining you do not want your chin to be higher than your forehead.  It’s relaxation pose, so take all the support you need.  Use an eyebag or fold a blanket so that it covers your eyes and ears and snuggle it around your head to enhance the inward retraction of your sensory organs.  Bring your awareness to your heart centre.  Surrender to the force of gravity and just be.

In Adho Mukha Svanasana or Dog pose the head should be allowed to totally relax and release, remind yourself to let the head let go in this asana.

When practicing Forward bends for any length of time; support the head.  You can rest the forehead on your folded arms on a chair or use a bolster and/or a block.  Poses with the head down relax the front of the brain and calm the mind.  If it is difficult to stretch forward without rounding the spine or collapsing the chest; use extra height under the sit-bones to make forward bends more comfortable and hence more beneficial.

Our approach to practicing Yoga must provide a balance of the inner/spirit and the outer/environment; between action and inaction, in order to create harmony and unity within our lives.

 

 

Pisces = Feet

The sun has moved into the sign of Pisces today and the correlated body part is the foot.  The feet represent our groundedness, our connection with the earth and our direction in life.  Different areas of the foot correspond with balance, support, regulation and control.  Our stability is evident in our feet and the way we stand; how we walk and move reflects our spiritual and physical direction.

If the feet are flat we may be skating along the surface of life.   Clutching toes and feet can represent an overdeveloped need to hold on and keep things under control.  Weight-bearing in the heels can indicate an individual with an exaggerated feeling of determination, which is often accompanied by a false sense of stability.  Tiptoeing can indicate a person who is not grounded, often a highly imaginative dreamer.

In Yoga the feet are the foundation for the majority of the asanas.  All standing postures are aligned from the ground up; accurate positioning and weight distribution are vital for a healthy practice.  When standing in Tadasana the big toes are touching and the heels are slightly apart.  The outside edges of the feet are parallel, this may feel pigeon-toed but is the correct positioning to align the legs.  Feel the weight in the four corners of the feet….as much into the inner as the outer foot, as well as the front and the back of the feet.  Creating a firm foundation with the feet gives you a safe launching place to fly with your practice.

Pisces Themes

Whilst the sun moves through Pisces you may notice the influence of the planet Neptune in your life.  A deepening of sensitivity to emotions, a great time to dream and connect with your spirituality, make art, poetry and music.  On the down side you may see the low road of addictions, depression, escapism and denial come up.  The challenge here is to develop emotional intelligence at a personal and global level.  Dream big, but stay grounded, feet firmly planted on terra firma.

Feet First Practice

Here is a short 10 minute practice to awaken and enliven your feet.  Fabulous to use before balancing postures or just on it’s own.

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Sitting in Virasana on a block with the feet on either side.  Your knees should not be splayed and the feet should be in line with the rest of the leg.  Make the block higher if the knees or feet are under too much pressure to spend 1-3 minutes comfortably.  This position spreads the bones in the feet; returning the natural arches and improving the circulation.  Slowly release from the pose, notice how grounded the feet feel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next “this little piggy went to market”……Support the foot with one hand and taking hold of the big toe, make 3 complete circles in one direction, then 3 complete circles in the opposite direction.  Continue to rotate all the rest of the toes in the same manner.

Place both hands on top of the foot and push down from the roots of and including the toes towards the floor.

Then place both the hands under the foot and draw the toes upwards towards you.  Repeat this sequence for the other foot.

Interlocked fingers to Toes

Lastly use your left hand and interlock the fingers between the toes of the right foot. Then clasp the hand to the foot and move them backwards and forwards to stretch the toes. Release the lock and swap over to do the left foot.

Yay, happy yoga toes, your feet will feel rejuvenated, alive and free. Ready for a totally grounded practice.