Yes, I’m a yoga instructor and I buy into the fact that what we experience on the mat serves as a metaphor for how we move through our lives. There are many lessons that we can learn on the mat through refining poses that transfer into us refining ways that we relate to ourselves and to others. Follow me on this one and see if it speaks to you.
We’ve all been there. Standing on the yoga mat and the instructor calls “tree pose”. We lift up our leg and for some reason, despite knowing you are capable of staying balanced, you need to put your toe down to stop yourself from tipping over. Then the next class, you feel like you could stay in tree all day.
So what do I say to people to help them hit that perfect pose?
- Take a deep breath. When you exhale, let the tension fall out of your forehead, your jaw and your shoulders.
- Feel your foot pressing down through the mat and connecting to an entire root system beneath your foot. In opposition to the grounding down of your foot, feel your head reaching towards the sky as if you were growing towards sunlight.
- Press your hands together in prayer position to allow your collarbones to broaden, your heart to open up and the backside of your body to engage.
- Allow your body to make micro adjustments just as a tree gently sways in the wind to remain standing. The more rigid a tree is, the more likely it is to break.
So what is tree pose all about?
It’s definitely about finding balance. But it’s also about connecting, staying focused and being adaptive in a non-reactive way.
- By dropping the tension out of our face, our jaw and our shoulders, we realize how our inner tension can easily be release by letting go of physical tension. I know when I’m in traffic or line ups and I take a second to exhale and release, there is a tone of tension that falls off my body that I wasn’t even aware I was holding.
- Pressing our foot down and connecting with the earth reminds us to remain rooted in what we believe. In opposition to that, as we let our head rise towards sunlight, we are reminded of being connected to something bigger than ourselves. The duality of rooting in your beliefs and connecting to the unity of our planet reminds us that our beliefs should benefit more than just “me” as an individual. We all stand together. The more our beliefs allow us all to collectively grow as a species, the stronger the connection we have both downwards and upwards making our balance easier, thereby allowing us to move more gracefully through life. (It sounds a bit cheesy but I believe it)
- As we press our hands together at our sternum and broaden our shoulder blades, we start to feel a deep connection to our heart. When doing this correctly, we feel as though there is an opening not only through the front of our heart and heart chakra but also through the backside of our body where wings would grow if you were an angel. For me, this opening automatically reminds me of the purity within each of us. The feeling that overcomes my body is so peaceful, centered and connected to the person within myself. Operating from this place off the mat, I know that my emotional response to any situation will be balanced and free from wavering.
- The final understanding on the mat to achieve balance is not being static. By allowing your “branches” in tree to make micro adjustments, the entire pose stays upright. Off the mat, we realize that being flexible in our interactions and judgements of ourselves and others allows us to course correct without feeling like we’ve been knocked down when something simply doesn’t jive anymore. The nature of life is that we sway. These sways don’t need to be aggressive, but if we allow ourselves to be open to seeing anther perspective, sometimes we realized that small sway sets us up to be rooted in a stronger spot.
As I practiced and continue to practice this “simple” pose, the lesson from it becomes a bigger and bigger reminder in my everyday life. I find that when I’m in situations where I need to make an important decision, taking that breath, connecting with my heart, rooting to my beliefs while recognizing our oneness allows me to act in a way that feels true to my authentic self. This is also true when I’m in deep conversation with someone. Coming back to the idea of tree, allows me to stay more present in my communication, hopefully allowing myself to stay true to what I feel while showing compassion for the other persons beliefs. I’m definitely not great at this all the time, just like there are still some days that I fall out of tree pose on the mat. Recognizing that our entire life is a work in progress allows me to shrug off those bad days and keep my eye on the trend.
Do me a favor, when you finish reading this, stand up and take tree pose. Connect with the bigger lesson of the pose and see how that changed the posture for you.
I truly hope you enjoyed this blog. Let me know so that I can make “Yoga Off The Mat” a series!