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5 Ways to Practice Tree Pose

Think you don't have balance? These variations of Vrksasana will allow you find a version that works for your body.

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One of the lasting lessons that my yoga asana practice has taught me is that I can feel grounded without having to be steady and I can feel strong without needing to be rigid. The pose that has helped the most in cultivating this experience is Vrksasana (Tree Pose).

Understanding that it is okay to sway, waver, and even fall out of the pose before I come back to equilibrium has helped me evolve the way I approach all elements of my yoga practice. It’s also helped me handle whatever life brings my way.

The traditional version of Tree Pose is a combination of a standing balance pose on one leg and an external hip rotation in the other leg. Tree Pose helps strengthen the muscles of the standing foot, ankle, and leg while also stretching the inner thigh and IT band of the other leg. The pose also develops core stability, spatial awareness, and, of course, balance.

This version of Vrksasana can be challenging for many of us, particularly those who experience balance issues, tightness in our IT bands or inner thighs, or any type of injury to the knee, ankle, or foot. Practicing any of the following variations will allow you to explore similar shapes, actions, and benefits while respecting your individual needs.

5 Tree Pose variations

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Preparation

Practicing Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), and Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose) will help prepare your legs for Tree Pose. Practicing Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your eyes closed will help you develop balance.

Man standing on a yoga mat balancing on one leg in Tree Pose
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

1. Traditional Tree Pose

Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bring your hands into anjali mudra (prayer position) at your chest or place them on your hips. Shift your weight into your left foot, bend your right knee, lift it toward your chest, and rotate your right leg out at the hip before you place your foot anywhere along your inner left leg. Press your foot into your leg and press your leg back into your foot.

Focus your gaze on a fixed point in front of you. Keep your hands in anjali mudra, place them on your hips, or slowly raise your arms above your head, closing your eyes if you wish to challenge your balance further.

Tip
Contrary to popular belief, it is not inherently harmful to place your foot against your knee in Tree Pose unless you have a knee injury or condition. For most students, this position is safe and comfortable. If you’re a teacher, consider replacing fear-based language like “Place your foot above or below your knee to protect your knee joint,” with cues such as, “If you are working with a knee injury or condition, try placing your foot below or above your knee.”

Man standing on a yoga mat balancing on one leg in Tree Pose with his right foot on a block for balance
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

2. Tree Pose with a block

Start in Mountain Pose with a block along the outer edge of your right foot. Bring your hands into anjali mudra (prayer position) at your chest or place them on your hips. Shift your weight into your left foot, bend your right knee, lift it toward your chest, and rotate your right leg out at the hip before you place the ball of your right foot on the block.

Focus your gaze and choose a comfortable hand position. Close your eyes to challenge your balance further.

Man standing on a yoga mat balancing on one leg in Tree Pose with his right knee bent and resting against a chair for steadiness
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

3. Tree Pose against a chair

Beginning in Tadasana, place a chair beside your right leg with the chair facing you. Place a bolster or pillow on the seat. Bring your hands into anjali mudra at your chest or place them on your hips. Shift your weight into your left foot, bend your right knee, lift it toward your chest, and rotate your right leg out at the hip before you place your foot anywhere along your inner left leg while resting your shin against the bolster.

Fix your gaze on a steady point in front of you and keep your hands in anjali mudra, place them on your hips, or slowly raise your arms above your head, closing your eyes if you wish to challenge your balance further.

Man sitting on a chair in a variation of Tree Pose in yoga with one leg straight and the other knee bent
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

4. Tree Pose in a chair

Sit toward the edge of a chair with your ankles underneath your knees. Bring your hands into anjali mudra at your chest or place them on your hips. Straighten your left leg and place your left heel on the floor. Lift your right knee, rotate it outward, lift it toward your chest, and rotate your right leg out at the hip before you place your foot anywhere along your inner left leg. Press your foot into your leg and press your leg back into your foot.

Focus on a fixed point in front of you and either keep your hands where they are or slowly raise your arms above your head, closing your eyes if you wish to challenge your balance further.

Man lying on his back on a yoga mat with one leg straight and the other knee bent in Tree Pose
(Photo: Andrew McGonigle)

5. Tree Pose on your back

Lie on your back on your mat with your legs extended straight in front of you. Have a block within reach. Bring your hands into anjali mudra in front of your chest or place them on your hips. Imagine you are pressing the heel of your left foot into a wall (or you could actually situate yourself against a wall), bend your right knee, open it out to the right, and place your right foot anywhere along your inner left leg. Slide a block between your right thigh and the floor. Hug your foot into your leg and hug your leg back into your foot. Keep your hands in anjali mudra, place them on your hips, or slowly raise your arms alongside your head.

About our contributor

Andrew McGonigle has studied anatomy for more than 20 years. After initially studying to become a doctor, he moved away from Western medicine to become a yoga and anatomy teacher. He shares his knowledge of the body and the ways it moves in yoga teacher training courses throughout the world and leads his own Yoga Anatomy Online Course. His second book, The Physiology of Yoga, was published in June 2022. To learn more about Andrew, check out doctor-yogi.com or follow him on Instagram @doctoryogi.