DIG DEEP: VRKSASANA (TREE)

Words: Danielle Gregan Figgie  // Images: Jill Futter

I have always had an appreciation for nature – growing up in rural Pennsylvania, it was hard not to. But in my younger days, I felt separate from it. To me, trees and mountains and flowers were something pretty to look at, and that was that. It was through my practice of yoga that I finally connected to the Oneness of all things. At first I brushed it off as a coincidence, but the more my yoga practice deepened, the more my appreciation for the world around me deepened. I could not deny the connection. In realizing my own true nature, I realized the energy and spirit of all things. We are all the same. In the physical practice of yoga, we stretch and twist and contort our body into shapes called Eagle, Camel, Mountain, Tree and many others inspired by nature so that we can invoke the qualities of these treasures in ourselves. I love Vrksasana (tree pose) because I get to emulate the strength, stability and grace of one of my favorite of Mother Earth’s creations. There’s something magical about being in the pose and feeling the energy of these durable, healing and essential parts of nature.

When I find tree pose in my practice, I build it from the ground up, as I do with all of the asanas. I find such joy in connecting my big toe mound and the inseam of my standing foot deeply into the earth. Ah, the feeling of being grounded, of truly connecting to the source; and feeling, in return, the nourishing energy of the Earth flow in to create an essence of strength and stability as I stand there, on one foot, balancing the weight of my body on such a tiny, yet intricate cluster of bones. It shouldn’t feel so natural, but it does. As all things in life fluctuate in and out of balance, I revel in the soft and subtle sway of my body – negotiating with everything within and around myself in this beautiful dance towards balance. And every now and then, I can truly feel it – the sweetness of center. And it becomes even sweeter knowing that I’ve found it not by being too rigid or unyielding, but by being malleable. It’s one of the yogic life lessons that I am most grateful for. Even trees, known for their great strength and deep roots, go with the flow. It’s written in nature – when a strong wind comes, we have to lean with it so it doesn’t knock us down.

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I stand there, on one foot, balancing the weight of my body on such a tiny yet intricate cluster of bones. It shouldn’t feel so natural, but it does.

My branches start where the heel of my lifted foot roots into my inner thigh, creating that connection to the source while the extended inner thigh reaches away from center. And just like that, the yearning outward begins. While trees stay deeply rooted, there is also an urge to grow and to give - to reach out and help those in need. Trees do this by providing oxygen, shade and in some cases, the bounty of their fruits. Yogis do this through acts of service, kind words, emotional support, and more.There is a tiny weight at the bottom tip of my tailbone, and it's moving downward - with gravity - reminding me of where I came from. And at the same time, my side waists crawl upward to snuggle with my bottom ribs, reminding me of where I can go. I feel my body reach in all directions, which makes me more aware of my center. Because nothing in nature is truly symmetric, including the human body, balancing postures in yoga are especially relevant.They teach us how to trust. 

One of the most important lessons we start learning immediately upon coming into existence is how to trust. And we are put to the test every day. Tree pose is a great way to practice this virtue. Yes, sometimes we wobble, and sometimes we fall. But we will always, always, be caught by Mother Earth herself, take our next breath in and continue practicing. Our strength and resilience might surprise us at first, but eventually we will come to understand that we are so supported - both inside and out - and we will begin to trust ourselves and the sacred space around us.

Finally, I’m ready to blossom my heart open. Practicing Vrksasana with Lotus Mudra adds some softness to the shape. Feeling the mudra form at the base of my palms instantly puts me at ease and reminds me that with every breath, I'm growing.


ABOUT DANIELLE GREGAN FIGGIE

Danielle has been practicing for eight years, and like any truly great relationship, the connection has only gotten stronger over time. After spending five years in a very fast-paced corporate job, she decided to turn her passion for yoga into a profession and became Registered Yoga Teacher, certified at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in New York City. She wholeheartedly believe that happiness is a choice, and for Danielle, yoga is happiness. In her teachings, she incorporates asana flow with pranayama and meditative techniques. The goal, first and foremost, is to move in harmony with the breath, while tapping into a deeper awareness of the self to provide a balance that ultimately arrives at a peaceful, happy place.