In Yoga Journal’s online course, Yoga for Inner Peace, Colleen Saidman Yee—acclaimed yoga teacher, fashion model, and the wife of yogi Rodney Yee—offers 3 yogic practices a week for 12 weeks to transform your body, mind, and heart. Here, she explains the importance of getting in touch with your roots as part of your personal journey toward inner peace, and demonstrates standing poses that help you connect to the earth and everyone who came before you.
Never Forget Your Roots
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that we are our ancestors—that our roots are our family, our home, our history, and everyone who came before us. Imagine, for a moment, all the beings directly related to you that lived before you were born. Even without a family tree, you can feel the lineage and impact of your gene pool. This intuitive feeling of our ancestry—and understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and all beings—gives us a sense of completeness. Conversely, the sages tell us that thinking that we are separate is what causes suffering, and robs us of our inner peace and joy.
I think about my mom and how sad she was to move away from her family in New York—she never really set up roots in Indiana. Our family moved because of my dad’s job, and my mom never felt like she truly belonged, even though she lived in Indiana from 1968 to 2012, when she took her last breath. She would even cry about how much she missed the trees in the yard of my childhood home in New York—a literal and figurative yearning for roots.
We all crave roots, and get thrown off course without them. Those roots can come from many sources—being in nature, family, friends, asana, meditation. At this point, I can stare at maple trees for a long time and they bring my mom back to me. I think I finally know how she felt. I also think of her when I practice Tree Pose.
Anatomically speaking, our feet are the roots of our body, and when we’re doing yoga poses, it’s through our feet that this relationship to the earth is fostered. When we viscerally know this connection, our illusion of separateness is dissolved, and a foundation for inner peace is cultivated. In Tree Pose, I feel joined to the earth, my mom, my breath, and my central channel. The following poses will get you into your feet and legs and give you a connection to the earth. A good set of standing poses creates a sense of stability. With this stability, you can walk on this beautiful earth with gratitude and feel a true connection to all.
6 Poses for Reconnecting With Your Roots
Mountain Pose (Tadasana )
As human beings, when we stand with our feet on the ground, it is natural. Our feet with their amazing sensitivity act as roots and as information gatherers.
Stand with your feet firmly planted, arms hanging alongside the torso. Watch how your roots grow deeper. From the foundation of your legs, float your torso up and balance your head high above your spine. Inhale, feel your feet, exhale, and feel your chest. Stay for 10 breaths.
Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
This pose has the steadiness and roots of Mountain Pose, adding the branches of the reach of the arms. Here, you are growing from your roots.
In Mountain, inhale and reach your arms actively upward. This is the start of growing from our roots, trusting that we have a solid foundation from which to extend. Elongate from the waist and try to touch the ceiling with your fingertips. Inhale, feel how the feet contact the floor, exhale, and take your arms higher until you feel a hollow in your lower belly. Hold for 5 breaths.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree Pose keeps the roots of Mountain Pose while we trust ourselves to stand on one leg and possibly fall. We all fall. Roots are not about not falling but getting back up and finding the earth.
Bend your right knee and take your right foot to the inside of your left thigh, as high as is comfortable. Reach your arms straight up alongside your ears. Keep the feeling of floating your chest and head. Watch yourself grow down through your roots into the floor while balancing on one leg. Focus on something about 6 feet in front of you that isn’t moving. Try not to become rigid as you stay for 5 breaths.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
The pose finds its roots in power legs, with an open front body.
Return to Mountain Pose. Step out a little more than 3 feet to the right, turn your left foot in 45 degrees, and turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Inhale as you raise your arms up alongside your ears and turn your torso to face your right leg. Exhale and bend your right knee toward 90 degrees. Hold for 5 breaths.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
With our feet wide and stable in this strong pose, we utilize the earth for the support and stability of our spine.
With your legs slightly wider than in Warrior I, turn your left foot in 15 degrees and keep your right foot out at 90 degrees. Lower your arms parallel to the floor and bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Stretch your middle fingers in opposite directions, feeling as if they were rooted between your shoulder blades. Hold for 5 breaths.
Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Here, you come into a into a strong balance pose while still feeling connected to your roots.
Return to Warrior I. Lean your torso over your front thigh and push off your back foot to Warrior III. Your back leg makes a long straight line with your torso and your extended arms. Hold for 5 breaths. Return to Warrior I, turn your feet parallel, and jump to Mountain Pose. Repeat the sequence from Mountain Pose on the other side.