Vrkasana, the tree pose
Three points have to be worked at for Vrkasana:
- Strength of the quadriceps
- Flexibility in the hips
- Elongation of the spine
The strength of the quadriceps is important for maintaining the foot of the raised leg in position.
To create flexibility of the hips, practice Supta Padangusthasana (see Danielle’s article on Utthita Hasta Padangustasana), followed by Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Cobbler Pose).
Maintaining a constant elongation of the spine, proceed to Supta Vrksasana (Reclining Tree Pose). Firmly root the foot of the extended leg’s foot against a wall to give strength to the quadriceps and to open the knee. Use of a block under the ankle of the bent leg to allow the foot to press against the middle of the upper inner thigh of the extended leg. Extend the perineum muscles forward to lengthen the spine.
The body is now ready to attempt the practice of Vrkasana (Tree pose). Stand sideways to a wall, bend the leg nearest to the wall and place the knee against the wall making sure that the supporting leg is vertical (parallel to the wall). Press the foot firmly against the inner top thigh of the supporting leg. Keep the supporting leg straight with the outer heel moving in, the ankle bones lifted and the thigh muscles lifted. You may hold the ankle in position with a belt if the foot slips down.
Keep the knee of the bent leg in line with the hip and bring that hip forward and down.
Alternatively, rest your back against a wall and use a looped belt to support the ankle of the bent leg. That will leave your hand free to open the thigh away from the groin. Having found release and confidence in this pose so far, move away from the wall. Do not let your concentration stray. Proceed as follows:
- Grow roots from the standing right foot on the floor and from the left foot on the thigh.
- Grow roots from the thigh and knee of the bent leg towards the floor.
- With the right thumb press the sacrum and bring the perineum muscles forward. With the left hand, push the bent knee down and backwards and down. The belly moves into the bent leg in order to stabilise the hip.
Grow up between the lift of the pubic bone and the downwards movement of the sacrum while pushing the bent knee back. Between the pubic bone and the sacrum the seed sprouts, downwards towards the ground and upwards towards the head; the whole of the lower pelvis being the roots growing in the earth while the rest above is the growing tree …
When the arms go up, they fly, leaving the legs, the pelvis and the spine undisturbed.
All standing poses are very good background work for increasing the strength of the legs. Possibly the most important one is Tadasana (Samasthiti). It teaches us to root the feet, lift the ankle bones, straighten the legs, stabilise the pelvis, elongate the spine, descend the shoulder blades and balance the head. All these points are very important to work comfortably in Vrkasana.