Finding your balance - Vrksasana
Balancing poses can be tricky because managing to hold your balance does not just depend on practice, it depends very much on how you are feeling, on your inner balance.
Naturally, practice helps. For postures where you are standing on one leg, you need to strengthen the muscles around your ankles and legs and for hand balances you need strong wrists, arms and shoulders, but no matter how strong you are or how much you practice, there’ll be days when you just can’t hold the pose. This usually occurs when you have something on your mind and can’t concentrate fully on the present moment. Not to worry, just keep your cool and try again. It’s important that whenever you lose your balance, you build the posture from the base upwards, step by step, without rushing into the final position.
Today’s balancing posture is Vrksasana, or tree pose. You create a firm base, spreading your toes and engaging your foot and leg muscles on one side. I usually start with the left, so I then shift my weight onto my left foot, spreading the weight evenly between the toes and the heel. I then bend my right knee and place the sole of my foot against my inner thigh, with my right heel as close to my groin as possible. It’s important for the pelvis to face forwards, and for the right knee to be pointing out towards the side. Engage your core muscles, lengthen through the spine, imagining there’s a thread pulling you upwards through the top of your head, and join your hands in Namaste in front of your heart. You can stay here, or you can stretch your arms up, holding the palms of your hands together, but if you do this make sure you relax your shoulders and leave plenty of space between your shoulders and your ears. If you find that you can't relax the shoulders, then separate your arms shoulder width apart, or bring your hands back to Namaste. Hold for a few breaths (try 5 if you can), and then slowly come out of the posture as gracefully as you can. Repeat on the other side and try to hold for the same number of breaths. Tip: it’s easier to keep your balance if you fix your gaze on an immobile spot, either in the distance or on the floor.
BENEFITS: Tree pose improves neuromuscular coordination, balance, endurance and alertness. It strengthens leg muscles and ligaments and helps withproper alignment of the vertebral column as all the muscles are stretched in the same direction.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: If you have an inner ear condition or severe difficulty balancing, then do this near a wall or a chair that you can use for support. NEVER place the sole of your foot on the side of the knee as you could injury your knee if you lost your balance. If you have high blood pressure, then keep your hands in Namaste and don't stretch the arms up.