- Sanskrit (Original): Vṛkṣāsana
- Etymology: Tree (vṛkṣa), pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: This pose symbolizes strength and growth.
- Asana Type: Balancing, Standing
- Main length muscle groups: Lifted leg: pectineus, adductor longus and brevis, gracilis
- Main strength muscle groups: Core muscles, glutes; standing leg: muscles of the foot and leg, tensor fasciae latae; lifted leg: hip flexors, adductor magnus and minimus, abductors
- Vinyasa Breath: Inhale
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1 Start standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip-width apart and shift your body weight into one leg, keeping the inner foot firmly on the floor.
- 2 Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you on the floor to improve your focus and balance.
- 3 Raise the other leg up and bend the knee. Turn the knee outwards without the opposite hip following along. Then, reach down with the hand and take hold of the ankle.
- 4 Place the sole of the foot against the upper thigh of the standing leg with the toes pointing down. If you can’t bring your leg up this high, you can also place it lower down. Note, however, that you should never place it directly against the knee. Bring it above or below the knee joint instead.
- 5 Squeeze the lifted foot into the femur bone of the standing leg and, at the same time, press the femur bone against the foot.
- 6 Let your groins move back and away from each other while you keep your core muscles engaged.
- 7 Keep your spine long and neutral while you reach up to the sky with the crown of your head.
- 8 Once you feel stable, raise your arms up overhead on an inhale.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Keep your hips aligned: Keep your hips aligned and compact by pressing the outer hip of the standing leg inwards, as it often tends to slack outwards as a counterbalance to the lifted knee.
- Root through the foot: Ground your foot into the floor by pressing your big and little toe mount down into the mat. This will improve your stability and balance in the pose.
- Work within your range of motion: Often the main focus in the yoga pose goes towards moving the lifted knee as far outwards as possible. Of course opening the hip is one of the main goals in Tree Pose. However, it is fairly easy to trick your body into opening the hip joint more than is actually accessible to you. To avoid this keep the frontal hip bone of the standing leg pointing forward. This serves as an indicator for your hip-opening capacity. Once you notice that frontal hip bone following the lifted knee, you have gone too far.
- Grow between the polarities: From inside your ribs, stretch the spine in two directions, i.e. down into the bones of your legs and up through the top of your head. So you are rooting down into the earth and extending up towards the sky.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- Use the wall or a chair to support you if you are struggling with balance. Lean your buttocks against the wall to support your entire body or bring your bent knee in contact with the wall once it is lifted.
- Hold on to the wall or a chair with the hand on the standing-leg side to support yourself.
- If your ankle is too far away for you to hold it, you can place the loop of a belt around your ankle and hold the belt instead. This can also bring a nice release if your hip flexors are doing more work than your adductors.
- Place your foot slightly above your knee or below it on your calf muscle, if bringing the heel close to your perineum is not accessible to you.
- Experiment practicing this yoga pose with eyes closed or raising your gaze to the ceiling in order to challenge your balance. This will help you learn to balance without any reference to the outer environment.
- Make Tree Pose a more challenging asana by standing on an uneven surface such as a folded blanket or mat. This will make it more difficult to balance. The body’s actions to counterbalance this instability strengthens the small muscles in the ankles and feet.
- You can also play with this pose by practicing bound tree pose variation. For this, bring the lifted foot into a Half Lotus position by placing the foot onto the groin of the standing leg.
Benefits of Vrksasana
- Tree pose is a great asana to strengthen your entire leg – from the thigh to the calve, ankle, and foot muscles. It also helps you gain strength and length in your core and spine and, thus, helps you to improve your posture.
- Apart from that, Vrksasana is a pose that stretches the groins and inner thighs and opens the hips. It also provides a gentle stretch for the chest and shoulders.
- The biggest benefit of this yoga asana may be its positive effect on your sense of balance by improving your focus and concentration. The steadiness in this pose helps you calm your mind and relax your central nervous system. This also helps you in almost any other physical activity. Good balance and a strong core are essential if you want to stay active and healthy.
- Although Tree pose seems to be a very basic asana, it’s a great exercise to practice patience and provides subtle reminders about your posture as well as interesting insight about your current mental state. You will notice that it is harder for you to stay balanced if you are in an uneasy state of mind.
Preparatory PoseSee all Poses
Preparatory poses are poses that have a similar shape to the pose you want to prepare for but maybe in a different alignment towards gravity and/or poses that target specific body areas to warm up, stretch or strengthen in order to lead to the final pose. Include preparatory poses when you build yoga sequences.
Counter PoseSee all Poses
Counter poses serve to balance the body back into neutral after a pose or a set of same poses. E.g. symmetrical poses balancing asymmetrical poses, forward folds or twists balancing backbends, balancing challenging poses with restorative poses. Use counter poses to build sequences that feel amazing – you can use our free Sequence Builder tool to get started.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Tree Pose is one of my favorite poses to prepare for hip-opening, because you really have to work your muscles. At the same time I love the symbolism as it connects you to earth and space alike.
Content Creator at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
Yes, if it is in your range of motion you should bring the heel as close to the perineum as possible. However, if this is not possible you can have it more in the middle of the thigh. Just be sure to not have it pressing on to the knee of the straight leg. The contact of the heel to the perineum stimulates the underlying nerve bundles of the pelvic floor, which also connects to your inner leg line and the soles of your feet.
To start off with, you can keep your arms below your head either with the hands on the hips or on prayer (Anjali Mudra) in front of your heart. If you feel stable enough, raise your arms up towards the ceiling. Feel free to experiment with different variations of aligning your arms. Stretch your arms straight up toward the ceiling, or bring your arms parallel to each other with the palms facing. Another option is to touch the palms together so that your arms form an inverted V.
Usually the standing leg will give you the most stability if your bones are stacked, which happens when the leg is fully extended and straight. However, if you experience too much pressure in your knee joint or if you are hypermobile be careful about the knee of your standing leg and keep it soft instead of locking it. This will also force you to engage the muscles surrounding the knee joint, thus providing more stability.
Chances are that you are experiencing the same pain in Downward-Facing Dog as it comes from the alignment of the upper arm bone and the shoulder sockets in most cases. Start off by bringing your awareness to your shoulders every time you lift your arms over your head. Let your shoulders follow the direction of your arms so that they can float up towards your ears. To avoid shoulder impingement, externally rotate the upper arms and rotate the scapulae upward instead of drawing the shoulders away from the ears. Keep slightly more distance between your arms to give more space to your shoulders and collarbones, but keep your elbows extended.