As far as yoga poses go, this beauty is highly underrated. To many the most obvious benefit from tree pose is balance, but there are so many hidden gems
that lie within, that can be particularly benefit the adventure athlete. All forms of yoga are beneficial to the athlete.
When people fall out of, or cannot achieve tree pose in the first instance, they tend to blame their poor ‘balance’. However, balance often has much more to do with body alignment than it does with the little calcium crystals swirling around our ear canals. Often poor balance in tree pose suggests hip instability and a weak or disengaged core, and therefore can be one of the better poses to rectify these imbalances.
Focus on an engaged core, controlled breath and not relying on one hip or slouching to one side more than the other.
2. HIP MOBILITY
As well as developing hip stability, this pose, allows us open up and create mobility in the hip. If the knee is tracking forward in this pose, we need to drop where the foot is positioned on the standing leg until we achieve that outward rotation once more, be it on the calf or just above the ankle. Take care not to place the foot on the knee joint avoiding unnecessary lateral pressure on the knee.
We spend so much time moving forward in the sagittal plane or crunched over, whether running, biking, at our desks, driving, or even sleeping, tightening our hip flexors to the point of dangerous tension. We can all benefit from creating more space in the hips, stretching out, releasing this tension and in turn reducing injuries related to tight hips, such as lower back pain, knee pain and glute issues.
3. ANKLE, FOOT AND LEG STRENGTHENING
No other pose challenges and activates the hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments in the ankle and foot complex more than tree pose. As off road runners,
our ankles are constantly being externally and internally loaded. In fact what puts many road runners off the mountains is the risk of rolling an ankle. The grounded foot, taking the load of the pose, is forced to engage, strengthening not only the foot and ankle muscles, but also those of the entire standing leg in order to maintain the balance.
A further extension onto the pose is to sway the body gently side to side or further still, to close the eyes and really challenge the pose. Try it!
If you struggle with plantar fasciitis, or poor arch support, this pose helps strengthen the sole of the foot. Think of the foot as if it were roots of a tree, spreading the weight to all corners of the foot, out through the toes and lifting through the arches.
Imagine a string attached to the top of your crown, pulling the body upwards and lengthening the neck, spine and waist, in turn lifting the hips and creating space within the joints. Visualise lengthening and lightness on the inhale, and opening and strength on the exhale. This pose can also help relieves sciatica and reduces flat feet, when performed correctly.
5. CHEST OPENING AND SHOULDER MOBILITY
Draw shoulder blades together, away from the ears and downward, allowing for an open chest. Again, particularly if we spend a lot of time on the bike, our shoulders tend to roll forward and our chest muscles tighten, resulting in weakened back muscles, pulling on the spine, causing injuries along the
body. This hunched posture can also restrict are capacity to breathe fully, which is very important to athletes.
6. FOCUS AND BREATH
My favourite part of this pose is that you cannot but be 100% focused and in the moment, or you fall. Find a point of focus (‘drishti’), something
fixed to rest the gaze on. Engaging the core and the standing leg muscles and working with an even controlled breathe can help with this. It is the perfect pose for clearing the mind and focusing on the present. Mindfulness, body awareness and focus are often what separate those on the podium. But also, it allows us really appreciate and savour every precious moment of the adventure.
HOW TO BE LIKE A TREE
1. Start by standing firmly on the ground, rooting the foot on all corners. Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, and bend your right knee. Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle.
2. Lengthen your torso. Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh, or calf muscle, and resist with the outer left leg. Press your hands together at heart centre. Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you on the floor or toward the ceiling, if you want to bring a little back bend into the pose.
3. Bring the hands together at heart centre, open the arms out into tree branches or join the hands up overhead, pressing the palms together.
4. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Step back to standing pose (Tadasana) with an exhalation and repeat for the same length of time on the other side.
WHEN NOT TO MAKE LIKE TREE…
• Dizziness or light headedness
• Low blood pressure,
• High blood pressure(do not raise arms overhead)
• If pregnant, make sure you have a chair or wall to close by, should you lose balance.
SUN SALUTATIONS (SURYA NAMASKAR)
This beautiful traditional yoga sequence can be used as a warm up, cool down or maintenance series of poses, opening up the body, warming up the muscles and creating mobility within the joints. It can be repeated endless times, with a breath per pose. To see this sequence in full flow, best to youtube it or go to yogajournal.com