The ecology of Vrksasana

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This is a  Koa tree my wife and I came across during a walk we took in Maunawili on the Windward side of O’ahu. Due to overcutting, you don’t find many Koa trees this size anymore on this island. Koa wood is a magnificent tropical hard wood that has a beautifully deep pattern as seen in this picture of a Koa wood door we took at the Hawai’i State Legislature. It also is made for Koa bowls which are worth their weight in gold.

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This Koa tree reminds me of Vrksasana, or Tree Pose. It is a rare tree that is getting rarer with demand. It is like how yoga is becoming in the West. In today’s practice, there is too much emphasis on yoga as a workout, or yoga as a fashion enterprise instead of its original purpose: to stop the mind so the practitioner can see his or her own splendor. Because of this, all the old teaching is dying out in favor of trendy yogas which incorporate style over substance. Soon the old teachings will be dead if we don’t preserve them.

Here is a presentation of Vrksasana the way my teachers have taught me.

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As many have difficulty balancing in the middle of the room while maintaining the proper actions of the pose, I will teach with a wall.

Start in Tadasana with the wall by your right side.

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Extend your right arm up and lean into the wall with your hip.

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Rotate your left leg and place the left foot high to the root of the thigh. Rotate your ankle so the toes are pointed straight down.

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As the thigh is shaped like a cylinder, placing the foot to close to the edge will make your foot roll off.

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Correct foot in the middle of the thigh

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Incorrect, foot too close to edge

From here, squeeze your hips together intensely until the hip comes off the wall. Keep the right arm up to maintain balance.

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Then extend the left arm up to match.

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Now work the hands together but not by bending the elbows.

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Incorrect

Because abdomen and the chest sink.

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Instead work your hand together by lifting them higher and higher until the meet at a point like railroad tracks in the distance. This is Urdvha Namaskarasana.

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Then the abdomen and chest lift.

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Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. And repeat on the other side. Eventually Work towards balancing in the middle of the room.

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Preserve old growth trees. Preserve old growth teaching!chris_hug_koa

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5 thoughts on “The ecology of Vrksasana

  1. nicoledemicco

    Thanks for the step by step instructions. I have just begun doing yoga, but my goal is not get a workout. I enjoy the calming feeling of focusing on my breath and blocking out the rest of the world, even if just for a couple of minutes. After just a few days, I am hooked!

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  2. jeromeyers

    I wonder if it is correct to think that the we are in danger of being taken over by the “workout yoga”. I see a vast undersea of depth that keeps growing. The “workout yoga” phenomenon is both American and economically predictable. But I actually see it as a sign of health in the system as it is how things spread from one system to another. The reality is that there are always going to be people who are willing and able to take it to the depths, and the more opportunities there are for those sorts of people to encounter the possibility that there are depths there to reach into (viz. yoga), the more often it will happen. And as it happens more often, these people will act as a corrective, as they already are, to the vulgarization of yoga by those more enamored by the surface.

    In a sense, “workout yoga” is pulling people out of gyms and away from machines and into studios, and already that is a step in the right direction. It just can’t all happen at once. This seems to me to be as true on an individual level as it is on a social level. Creatively, the whole can be viewed as one big leviathan lumbering into deeper practice, with different parts at different stages of reaching there. But at least the beast has started to move!

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks Jeromeyers! Your post is helping to refine my thinking on the subject. It also gives me a bit of hope. I wish there were more practitioners like yourself who actually read and consider the philosophical structure of the practice. If anything, your reply should be a call to action for those “deeper” practitioners who are serious about the subject to blog more about their findings. Best of luck in your teacher training.

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