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4 Challenging Tree Pose Variations for Better Balance

Try yoga teacher Claire Missingham's ideas for adding some flair to your Vrksasana.

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Claire Missingham Tree Pose Vrksasana

Add a little flair to your Tree Pose. The following variations build strength, refine balance and alignment, and prepare you for more advanced balance poses, such as Bird of Paradise.

Start with

Claire Missingham’s 8 Steps to Master and Refine Tree Pose


Move on to playing around with these four fun takes. These postures require a focus on your body’s center, or midline. Find a drishti, or focal point, on the floor about four feet in front of you to aid balance. Don’t hesitate to use a mirror to check your alignment if you find it useful.

See also 3 Ways to Safely Modify Tree Pose

Bending Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Claire Missingham in Tree Pose variation

This pose challenges balance, stretches and tones the side waists, and builds strength.

Start with your feet together in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Shift your weight slightly onto your right foot, keeping your inner foot firmly on the floor, then bend your left knee. Reach down with your left hand and clasp your left ankle. Draw your left foot up and place the sole against your inner right thigh. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Inhaling, bring both arms overhead with straight elbows. Now begin to tip out to the left side, bringing your right arm down until the back of the forearm touches the knee. You can now push out the opposite hip to help you balance, being careful not to shorten the waist. Take 5 breaths here then come back to center and Tadasana before switching to the other side.

See also Two Fit Moms’ Yoga for Better Balance

Half-Lotus Tree Pose (Ardha Padmasana in Vrksasana)

Claire Missingham in Half-Lotus Tree Pose

This second variation brings the lifted leg into a deeper hip opener—Half Lotus

Begin standing in Tadasana with your arms at your sides. Shift your weight to your right foot, and ground down firmly. Moving slowly, bend your left knee up toward your chest. Raise your left foot and gently bring the heel to rest as high as you can on the front of your right thigh or hip. The sole of your foot should be facing the sky. As long as you don’t have knee pain, you can allow your left knee to drop down. Eventually, your bent knee will align with the knee of your standing leg, but be careful never to force it. Keep your gaze focused on one spot on the floor, about four feet in front of you. Hold and breathe for up to 1 minute. Then repeat on the opposite side.

See also How Do I Prep for Lotus Pose? 

Side Plank Pose, Tree variation (Vrksasana in Vasisthasana)

Claire Missingham in Side Plank variation

This challenging but fun variation strengthens your oblique muscles and arms.

From Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), inhale forward into Plank Pose, bringing your shoulders over your wrists. Roll onto your right hand and outer right foot, stacking your left foot on top of the right. As you glance down at your feet, your legs should be totally straight as if in Tadasana. Now raise your top leg as high as you can, turn it out from the hip in an external rotation, and place the sole of your left foot onto the upper inner right thigh, as you would in Tree Pose. Raise your left arm and look up. Firm your right leg and bring your right shoulder blade back and down using the rhomboids to open the chest. Roll your top hip open, but be careful that your lumbar, or lower, spine lengthens rather than overarches. Take up to 10 breaths then return to Down Dog before repeating on the other side.

See also Taylor Harkness’s Gratitude-Rockstar Side Plank Pose

Handstand, Tree variation (Vrksasana in Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Claire Missingham in Handstand variation

Light up your Tree Pose with an inversion to boost energy and blood flow.

Start in Downward-Facing Dog Pose facing a wall. Walk your feet in halfway, bringing your shoulders over your wrists and keeping your forearms strong, hands planted firmly on the ground. Come onto the ball of your right foot, keeping your right leg straight. Bend your left knee slightly and lightly spring up, pushing the ground away and kicking with your left leg while your right leg stays strong and energized. Once you’re upside down, pull your ribcage in and up. Press up through the balls of your feet. Then bend your right leg and try to place the foot onto the opposite thigh. Press the foot firmly into the thigh and the thigh into the foot. Let your head hang down if possible. Stay for as long as you can before switching sides!

See also 7 Steps to Defy Gravity and Master Handstand