Anyone can do yoga — and you don’t need to go to class regularly to start seeing the benefits. All it takes is ten minutes of your time, in the comfort of your own home, or you can slot it into your regular exercise regime. This week: How tree pose, or vrksasana, can help you focus and improve concentration levels.
There’s something on your mind and it won’t stop nag, nag, nagging away. Or maybe your head is jammers with a daunting to-do list so long you don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, your ‘monkey mind’, as Buddhists call that incessant, internal chatter, needs to chill the heck out, and tree posture will help that happen.
If you are balancing on one leg, there is only one thing you can think about — and that’s balancing on one leg. If your mind starts to wander, your body starts to wobble. It’s as simple as that.
Yes, vrksasana is challenging, but it builds concentration and focus, thus reducing stress, and it’s a great all-over body strengthener. In particular, tree pose works on improving strength and stability in the feet, ankles and hip muscles.
HOW TO DO IT
Find a firm surface such as a wooden or tiled floor. Stand with your bare feet parallel and hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Lean a little from side to side, then back and forth, until you feel your weight balanced equally between both feet.
Choose a point on the floor to focus on — a knot of wood, maybe. In yoga this is called your drishti, or focused gaze, and it will help you find your balance, physically and mentally, in tree pose.
Bring your attention to your breath. Feel the breath, soft and smooth, as you inhale and exhale through the nose.
Move all your weight onto your right foot. Lift your left foot off the ground and position the sole of your foot on the inside of the leg using your hand. If you are fairly flexible, bring your foot to the inner thigh, but it really doesn’t have to come up this far! Place the foot on the calf, for example, or keep the toes on the ground and simply raise the heel, resting it on the ankle of the right foot. The only rule? Avoid placing the foot on the inside of the knee — it won’t appreciate added pressure from this angle.
Sometimes our trousers are a bit slippy. If this is the case, hoick them up out of the way.
When you have found your balance, put your hands on your hips and tuck your tailbone under. Keep focusing on that point on the ground. Place the palms together in front of your chest. Stay here for a few breaths, then raise your hands over the head, keeping them together.
There’s a tendency to hold tension in the body when we concentrate — a frown, perhaps, or clenched jaw — so relax the shoulders and soften the face, especially that space between your eyebrows There’s also a tendency to hold our breath, so come back to that soft inhale and exhale. Stay here for up to 15 breaths.
Yes, you might fall, but don’t get frustrated, just try again. When you are ready to come out, do so as gracefully as possible. Repeat on the other side.
Clearer, calmer mind? You bet.
CAN ANYONE HAVE A GO?
Pretty much. If you’re a bit wobbly, stand next to a wall for support. And if you have high blood pressure, keep your hands on your hips.
Remember, balance is very personal. Joint weakness, ear issues, PMT and certain medications, for example, can all bring on the wobbles. But keep practising and you’ll reap the benefits.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, Tuesday February 10, 2015