For many of us summer can be a wonderful time of the year, serving as a period of rest from our regular routines and an opportunity to recharge and take stock of the year before we launch into the business of back to school and work in the fall. For others who do better with a schedule, it can pose a challenge to find stability in the more unscheduled weeks and months. In either case, we are given a chance to look at our lives differently for a while and to change our perspective, whether through travel or simply spending more unstructured time with family and friends. There can be a freedom and lightness that comes with this more open time.
In yoga, we are working towards alignment of the mind, body and breath to arrive fully in the present moment. But compromised physical alignment, where we force our bodies, can be counter-productive leading to over stretching some areas or reinforcing structural imbalances.
By practicing Tree Pose (Vrksasana) in yoga, we can explore the sensation of expansion and upward movement and practice putting our trust in the support of the earth.
1. Begin by standing with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Explore the sense of balance by shifting your weight from one leg to the other and then coming back to center, connecting with the central axis of the spine and feeling the support of the ground as it comes up to see the feet. Close your eyes and visualize rooting down into the earth for support, all four corners of each foot pressing down.
2. Shift your weight over to your left foot and root down into this leg, without collapsing out through the hip. Bend the right knee and bring the sole of the right foot to your left shin or inner thigh (avoid the knee to protect the knee joint). As you do this, notice the tendency of the right hip to move out of alignment and see if you can draw the right hip forwards so both hips point straight ahead, as you press the right knee out to the side in line with the hip.
3. Bring your awareness to your standing leg and focus on rooting down through your left foot and left leg. Bring your gaze 45 degrees in front of you on the floor to keep your gaze steady. Slowly start to bring the sense of expansion and growth into the pose as you lengthen through the spine and press out through the crown of the head.
4. When you feel that you are completely supported through the left leg, expand your energy up through the arms and you raise your arms overhead, keeping the shoulders relaxed and the gaze steady on the floor.
5. Whenever you’re ready to come out, slowly release the arms back down, bring your hand to your right knee and draw your knee in front of you as you lower the right foot down to the ground. Shake both arms and legs out to release any tension. Pause and practice this again on the other side, this time shifting your weight over onto your right foot and placing the sole of the left foot onto the right shin or inner thigh.
As we move into the month of February, we see small signs of spring.
“In every winter’s heart there is a quivering spring, and behind the veil of each night there is a smiling dawn.” – Khalil Gibran