Himalayan Yoga Academy

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Balancing Tree Pose ( Vriksasana )

11 Nov 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy

Balancing Tree Pose ( Vriksasana )

Vriksasana ( Palm Tree Pose )

This sequence is named for the Balancing Tree pose (Vriksasana). It is also known as Bhagirathasana, named for the sage whose devotional sincerity to Shiva resulted in the heavenly river Ganga being manifested on Earth. This Posture promotes a feeling of equanimity and serenity. Its practice is described in the medieval Tantra Hatha text the Gheranda Samhita in chapter II, sutra 36.

The qualities of a tree are used in several places in yogic teachings. Patanjali`s eightfold path is more literally rendered as “eight limbs”; symbolically a tree with eight limbs, that must each be cultivated for the fulfillment of the promised experiences he describes leading to illumination.

 By the sustained practice of all the component limbs of Yoga,

the impurities dwindle away and wisdom`s radiant light shines forth

A tree`s image is used metaphorically as the fullness, the continuity of human experience. By denying any of the states of life, the life force is diminished and fulfillment is lost.

  “What are seen as birth, death, pain, pleasure, form and formlessness are all limbs of one being. There is no division among them, even as there is no division in the several parts of one tree.”

Another balancing pose of the Vinyasa is the Dancer King Posture ( Natarajasana) which symbolizes Shiva as witness consciousness. It is named after Nataraja, the Cosmic Lord or the Lord of the Dance of the time. The Dancer King is the subject of statue of Shiva dancing on the back of dwarf, where Shiva symbolizes the ignorance of our true self. By focusing on the witness consciousness, while remaining fully engaged in the daily routine of everyday life.

Contemplation ( Dharana)-

A regular practice of balancing postures can enhance our humility. It is natural that we will fall. No one can maintain balance forever, so it is important to learn how to fall with grace and even with a sense of laughter and playfulness.

During a mid-life crisis I nurtured myself by taking time away from teaching yoga to live amongst, the redwood forests of Northern California. While there an empathic. Yoga teacher nurtured me back to spiritual health by numerous acts of kindness. On one of our many walks together in the forest, he showed me an enormous redwood tree that had fallen during a winter storm about two years prior. The tree`s root ball was remarkably shallow being only about three feet deep yet it was easily 50’ in diameter. The trunk was nearly 30 in diameter , the length of the tree having shattered into five major section upon impact when it fell and its 270 length (its former height ) was gracing the fern –covered forest floor . Its age was estimated to be over 2000 years. I was awe stuck . How remarkable is the strength of this majestic being and how awaesoe its return to earth ,  The circlce of life was never revealed to me as complete as in the presence of this being , whose  relatives are the largest living beings.

The story of Queen Julia

Queen Julia loved her subjects so much that  she was constantly attending to their affairs and seeking to uplift the quality of their lives. She was so busy with hteir lives that she rarely had time for  herself. Inevitably , yet quite predictably , this lifestyle created a profound sickness due to increasing stress. She was forced to go into solitude to recover. Her attendant recommended she go to visit the summer palace that her predecessor had built in the mider climate prevalent in the south of the cpuntry. The journey was a delight for the countryside was truly exquisite. Seeing such abundance of nature`s greenery, Julia remarked how much she felt nourished simply by being immersed in the colors and aromas of nature. During her journey , Queen Julia heard of a famous woman saint named Mira who was said to be “Wise beyond measure”. The queen decided to seek her out for counsel as to how she might better serve her subjects and herself simultaneously.

Upon their meeting Mira saw deeply into the burden Queen Julia was carrying. Mira invited Queen Julia to go for a walk in the forest to greet her subjects. Mira explained to the Queen that all of nature was  her domain , and that the love and suddenly Mira grabbed the trunk of one of the greatest trees Queen Julia had ever seen. At first Mira seemed entranced as an exquisite glow radiated form her and her smile turned into a saintly expression of love. Then she began to scream, “The tree has got me and won`t let me go!

Queen Julia was shocked . “ How can a tree grab and hold you? Have you gone mad?”

Mira replied with a look of delight . “How then can your subjects hold onto you ? Can you not cast them off as easily as I relax my grip on this magnificent tree?” Saying so she released her embrace of the tree and she fell upon the lush forest floor laughing hysterically. The queen`s illness faded away soon after due to her sharing in the lifestyle and loving company of the saintly Mitra.

Precautions

While none of the poses are strenuous or harmful , they are challenging to your sense of equilibrium. If this is a concern then you might want to do the series close to a wall or chair in case you want more reliable support.

Instructions

  1. Start  by standing in samasthiti pose with your feet hips width and hands at your sides. Take several deep breaths , centering your attention and focusing on enhancing your sense of poise. Continue standing until you notice a natural tendency to sway and your body`s tendency to make continuous adjustment as it maintains center. Then gently extend yourself taller, lengthening through your spine, neck and skull. Experience how a tree would reach to the warmth and radiance of  the sunlight.
  2. On an Inhale, bring your palms together into Namaste( Palm Salute gesture) at your heart. Continue to elongate your spine while taking three comfortable breaths. To steady your balance, gaze at a fixed point and feel the solidity of the earth.
  3. Exhale and bending your right knee bring it straight forward as high as possible , then externally rotate your hip without twisting your pelvis to rest your foot on your  inner thigh. Remain steady for three breaths, then on an
  4. Inhale extend your arms straight up overhead, keeping palms together in Namaste. Stay steady for three breaths.
  5. Exhale as you lower your arms to your sides, returning your leg to the ground.
  6. Repeat steps 2 -5 with your left leg lifted.
  7. Exhale lowering your hands to bring your right foot into the upper groin with your knee to the side. Place your heel on the thick gracilis tendon  that attaches to your pubic bone.
  8. Inhale extend your arms straight up. Hold the balancing tree pose( Vrksasana) for three breaths, maintaining your balance by keeping your inner and outer thighs firm, Then on an
  9. Exhale sweep your hands out and down, simultaneously bringing your knee forward then downward returning to standing steady pose.(Repeat (6-9) , balancing on your right leg.

10. Inhale extending your spine and chest to full capacity then as you Exhale bend your right knee bringing your foot , behind your hip, Grasp the top of your ankle with your right hand.

11. Inhale extend your left arm forward and upward, gently pulling your arms away from each other. Steady your balance for three breaths.

12. Inhale lift your chest fully lengthening your spine as your pull your foot away from your hips coming into the Dancer Pose ( Natarajasana). Equalize the pull of your foot backward to the expansion of your chest forward.

13. Inhale comes to standing erect with your knees together, heel pulled toward your hip, while lifting your left arm straight up.

14. Exhale using both hands pull your heel firmly toward your buttocks with thighs together.

15. Inhale while opening your chest, then Exhale and release your leg returning to Standing Steady Position.

Repeat (10-15), balancing on your right leg, with your left leg lifted.

16. Inhale as you bring your arms overhead, with your palms facing each other.

17. Exhale lowering your hips into a partial squat position squeezing your thighs together.

18. Inhale lengthening your spine then Exhale into a deeper squat, then Inhale bringing yourself into a vertical line.

19. Exhale as you balance on your toes with your thighs parallel to the floor. Inhale sitting tall then hold the pose steadily for three breaths.

20. Inhale forming Namaste to your heart bringing yourself into the full Squat Pose, Utkatasana. Exhale fully then as you.

21. Inhale come to be standing as you extend your arms overhead.

22. Exhale as you bring your hands to your heart in Namaste to finish the Vinayasa. Take several deep, full breaths while feeling the benefits of the series.

Notes to polish your practice-

The eyes are very important for maintaining balance. Fixed gaze ( Tratak), described in chapter five on Yoga Purification Practices, is to be maintained without an attempt to see details in the objects you are observing. Maintain a relaxed gaze. By fixing your gaze on an unmoving object, the process of concentration begins automatically. Your breath will become smooth, regular and slow, There may be a tendency to hold your breath, yet by staying alert, the rhythm will establish itself.

Work to keep your hips and pelvis level and and square to the front throughout the Vinyasa. this will allow the muscles of your inner and outer thighs to adapt tp changing pressures of gravity and maintain a balanced posture. feel the stability of the pose not only at your foot and ankle, but also in the firm position of your pelvis girdle.

Many people have a tendency to do the Balancing Tree posture with their bent thigh straight out to the side. since normal range of motion of the hips in abduction is only 45 degree, this 90 degree motion is impossible without twisting your pelvis. This places the hips uneven from side to side and gives a twist in the spinal column.

Benefits of Palm Tree

The balancing tree builds on the Palm Tree sequence .While the Palm Tree develops rhythm in breath and motion , the balancing tree develops concentration and poise. Because it requires us to focus our mind and stay with our breathe while poised on one leg, this sequence deepens our inner work . Balancing poses are said to impart stability and greater self-esteem.

Physical balance can lead to a stronger , more determined mental and psychological stance. The quality of maintaining your balance in life without strain or wavering can be enhanced through the practice of this vinyasa. You will notice that when you are having trying times in life, the balancing poses are likely to be more difficult. However, practice during these times often makes the difference of life seem less stressful as it may produce insights into those situations.

Because the arm positions in the Vinyasa lift your chest and diaphragm , enabling the diaphragm to move more powerfully , the sequence is ideal for anyone with respiratory limitations or shallow breathing that often accompany depression.

The variations of hip height in squatting are excellent for strained ligaments of the knee, though if your knee strain is obvious ,be sure to keep your feet a more comfortable distance apart. Usually increasing your width from six to twelve inches apart will promote comfort while increasing stamina. The squat pose also enhances the opening and strengthening of the diaphragm , bringing Vitality into breathing , it requires a lift of the rib cage and separates the rib fully . In the full squat position , the ankles are stretched intensively , and so balance may be precarious. If there is a balancing problem, move your feet even wider apart. Keep the inner arch of your foot lifted to help support your ankle.

Utkatasana , or the Squat pose, resembles the position of a chair in the half vertical (position 22). The full version is done by balancing on the tiptoes, so it is very awkward and is sometimes called “the hazardous pose” or ” the uneven pose “. Utkatasana is mentioned in the Gheranda Samhita in Chapter 2, Sutra 23 , with just a brief discription . The squat posture tones the adductor muscles of the inner thigh. In addition , the bending of the knees strengthens the quadriceps muscles that stabilize and straighten knee joints .

Many of the benefits of Yoga we can only speculate at , since it is nearly impossible to do an accurate physiological study of its benefits. For instance, attempts at balance will develop our capacity to adapt thus certainly strengthening our immune system, the master adapter. But how much this time may benefit us is probably impossible to measure. We can feel the results of Yoga as the “improved sense of well being” more than that I shall leave to the Yoga scientists to uncover. They have discovered many of the mysterious ways in which Yoga could or has benefited our various physiological systems.

Practice of the balancing Tree Vinyasa strengthens the joints of the legs and hips and removes strains caused by over -exertion or exercise done with improper alignment . This is an ideal sequence to practice before running or swimming . It tends to balance Vata dosha while sedating an over active Pitta Dosha.

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