There is no greater metaphor for my life, than the many balance poses in yoga. Whether balancing on one foot in Tree Pose, or in tilted side-arm balance, or the ever-elusive crow pose, I am forced to drop all of the external issues floating around in my mind and bring 100% of my attention to this moment — this steady or unsteady moment.
Balance poses force me to practice patience with myself. I often catch my frustration and irritation building as I topple from side to side. It isn’t until I let go of any self-imposed expectations, that I am finally able to just settle into the earth, rooted but swaying gracefully.
To build your own steadiness in balance poses, focus your attention on the following physical aspects, knowing that ultimately it will be your state of mind that allows you to stand or has you toppling over.
For a basic Tree Pose:
- Balance begins with a firm and rooted foundation, so feel your feet planted firmly, your weight distributed evenly from ball of foot to heel.
- As in Mountain pose, draw the energy up through the arch of your foot, into your calf and knee, lifting the thigh and opening the hip. Draw the navel toward the spine as you feel your core muscles engage, creating length in the front of the body.
- Keeping the energy pushing into the earth and lifting the upper body, shift your weight to your right foot and bring the left foot off the ground, maybe keeping the toes gently touching the earth until you feel stable.
- Focus the eyes on a non-moving point about five feet in front of you, perhaps a wall or the ground.
- Relax the breath and slide the left foot up the right leg, maybe resting at the shin or drawing it up onto the right thigh with the help of your hands.
- Once you feel stable, return your attention to your core muscles. Feel the ribs lift and the belly firm, sending energy down the legs and into the earth.
- If you fall, start over by relaxing the mind, deepening the breath, grounding the foot, and letting go of any expectation.
- Practice holding the pose for 30 seconds, then switch legs. One side is usually more difficult than another side, so work more patiently with that side. Eventually, practice holding the pose for 1 -3 minutes to bring benefits to your mental state. Or increase the instability with variations of tree pose to increase physical strength.
- Finally, rest in Mountain or Child’s pose and reflect on the areas of your life that are reflected in your Tree Pose. Are you in need of connection and grounding? Is something weighing you down? What distractions can you release? Are you placing harsh expectations on yourself?
As you go about your day, keep this new understanding about your life situation in your awareness. Draw strength from your tree pose, and let the joys and struggles of your day enrich your life.