I practice yoga and do a lot of the same poses over and over. I spend time in them and get to know them. As forms and shapes, as patterns and combinations. Some days are boring and I struggle to get on my mat. Other days I just lose track of time and enjoy the exploration of body and mind. Like any commitment in our lives (family relationships, chores, studying, work, etc.), my yoga practice has its ups and its downs in the daily perspective. Over the long haul though, I get to learn and grow so much by being persistent.
Each day, as I settle into each asan (pose), I get some time and space to get to know myself. What kind of voice speaks to me when I can’t reach my forehead to my shins in a forward fold? Is there a loud inner critic or a compassionate encourager? And how does that seep out into the rest of my life and roles? Who am I when I am still in an asan long enough to feel really challenged? Am I able to breathe big and calm or do I get frustrated? Do I aim criticism out around me to take my attention away from myself? Can I really be with myself without judgment, no matter the ‘outcome’ I’m experiencing? Can I keep my focus on my breath, my thoughts, and my body in the present instead of daydreaming of some unreal future or replaying some non-existent past?
This journey within offers me a big picture benefit – a pearl of infinite value. As I know myself, I can love myself. As I experience loving myself, I can extend that grace, compassion, and loving kindness to others. As I get in tune with the value of my soul, I can recognize and celebrate the value of the other souls around me. As I root into who I am (without all the stories I create about who I should be or what I’m not enough of), I can grow tall like the trunk of a tree. My branches extend outward, strong enough to provide a home and shelter to those with need, shade to offer rest to the weary nearby.
Practice Vrikstasan, Tree Pose, this week and notice who you are. What do you tell yourself when you wobble or fall? How can you practice encouragement and optimism? When you extend your arms, can you think about all the ways your arms physically offer support and love to those around you? What do you carry for others? How many people do you hug, high five, or touch with these hands and arms? May this practice, and all your daily commitments, be practices that bring you deeper into the you that you long to always be.
Yoga Tree Pose
Stand firmly with both feet equally sharing your weight and your weight equal between the fronts, backs, and sides of your feet. Slowly shift your weight into your right leg. Bend your left knee slightly and turn your knee out to the side. Lift your left heel up to the side of your right leg and balance here. Take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel. Are you comfortable in this position? Are you frustrated with your dancing ankles? Either is okay.
If you want to play with moving your left foot up the inside of your right leg, place your whole foot on your inner calf or inner thigh. Keep your foot off your knee! To balance, press your right foot down deep and keep your leg muscles strong. Press your left foot against your right leg and your leg into your foot. And, you can do this pose next to a wall or chair to help you with balance, too!
Bring your hands together in front of your heart in Anjali Mudra. Keep breathing. When you are ready, lift your arms up into the air as your tree branches. Imagine all the ways your arms support others. Recognize all the ways your arms support you – hands to connect to others in person or through typing on the computer, arms to hug those your love (or your cozy pillows or furry friends). Breathe deep. Bring your hands down and release your foot. Stand tall again. After a minute, give your best effort to the other side!