Stretches: Hip of the lifted leg, groin.
Main Focus: Press the foot of the standing leg into the mat and press the foot of the lifted leg into the standing leg (avoid the knee!). The engagement of both legs will make balancing easier.
As runners, proprioception, our internal sense of our body position and motion, is incredibly important, as we dodge pot holes and puddles, gawking pedestrians in the city, and roots and rocks on the trails. Balance training is a good way of improving one’s proprioception and coordination and preventing injuries, such as ankle sprains.
Tree pose tackles it all: it strengthens the foot, ankle, and calf of the standing leg as well as the postural muscles; it allows you to stretch the groin and the hip of the lifted leg; and it challenges and improves your balance, helping you OM to your PR.
- Start standing tall with your feet together, arms at your sides (Mountain Pose). Build the pose from the ground up: shift your weight onto the right leg. Spread all 5 toes, and root all 4 corners of the right foot firmly into the mat.
- Lift your left foot and place the sole of the left foot on the inner right thigh. Depending on the tightness of the left hip you may want to place the left foot on the inside of the right calf. Avoid placing it on the right knee.
- Lengthen the tailbone down towards the mat. Drop and adjust the left hip to align it with the right. This may mean pulling the left knee forward a little.
- Press the left sole against the right leg: it will help you engage the right leg more fully and achieve balance more easily.
- Lengthen the spine. Engage the core and pull the belly button to the spine. Bring your awareness to the centerline of the body and feel the energetic connection from the sole of the grounded right foot through the pelvis, through the spinal column, and to the crown of your head. This centerline focus will allow you to achieve balance more easily.
- Hands can come to the heart center in prayer, extend overhead, or stay on the hips to give the shoulders a break.
- Stay in the posture for 5 breaths. Repeat the same on the left side.
- If balance is tough to achieve, place the toes of the lifted foot on the mat and the sole of the foot against the ankle of the standing leg.
- If the hip on the side of the lifted leg is tight place the lifted foot lower on the standing leg or bring the lifted knee in towards the center.
- If you outstretched arms are causing a discomfort in the shoulders, keep the hands apart overhead and the arms shoulder-width apart. Else, you can bring your hands to your heart center or to your hips.
- Lowering the arms will also help with balance.
- Tree pose can be a powerful hip opener on the side of the lifted leg: press the lifted left foot strongly into the standing right leg and use it for leverage to traction the left knee to the left and away from center. Keep the hips level.