Want to learn more about Tree Pose, aka Vrksasana? In this post, I share Tree Pose benefits, a complete yoga pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, a step-by-step video, modifications and more.
Oh Tree Pose. Why do you taunt me so? It may surprise you to know that Vrksasana, while generally considered a beginners’ pose, is one of those poses that continues to challenge me and to provide me lots to work on.
I find one-leg standing poses really tough. My ankles aren’t very strong and while I work to build strength in them, I don’t do targeted ankle weight lifting or anything. But I do keep coming back to Tree Pose and its relatives, like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 and 2, Garudasana, Utthita Eka Padasana and Natarajasana, so I can build strength through practice.
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Tree Pose Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Vrksasana (sometimes spelled Vrikshasana or Vriksasana)|
|English||Tree Pose / Perfect Pose|
|Meaning||Vrksa means tree.|
Asana means pose or posture.
Vrksasana means Tree Pose.
Tree Pose Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Tree Pose here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Vrksasana include:
- Strengthens your legs — knees, quads, hamstrings and hip stabilizers!
- Opens your hips and stretches your inner thighs and groin muscles.
- Strengthens your core which helps develop stability.
- Stretching your arms upwards improves/maintains shoulder flexibility.
- Strengthens your feet and ankles.
- Strengthens the muscles of your hips, which helps build stability.
- Tones and strengthens your arms.
- Prepares you for other hip-opening poses like Ardha Padma Vrksasana (Half-Lotus Tree Pose) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose).
- The focus and concentration you build working on Tree Pose can help your confidence in other one-legged balancing poses.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
- If you have trouble balancing, use caution with this pose and practice it near a wall where you can support yourself as needed.
- If you have a knee or hip injury, Tree Pose is not recommended.
- If you have high blood pressure, do not lift your arms overhead. Instead keep your palms in Anjali Mudra (the prayer position) at the center of your chest.
- If you are elderly or have osteoporosis, practice Vrksasana near a wall you can touch for support as needed.
- If you have a recent injury to your legs, shoulders, arms or spine, you may want to avoid Vrksasana.
- If you have an unstable SI joint or have sciatica, approach Tree Pose with caution and focus on keeping your hips strong and stable.
- If you can easily hyperextend your knees, be sure to keep the knee on your standing leg engaged and active.
Misconceptions & Myths About Vrksasana
While most yoga poses weren’t created until the past century, there are some that have been around much longer — Vrksasana is one of those. It is one of the 32 asanas mentioned in Gheranda Samhita (written in the 17th century).
Stand straight on one leg, bending the right leg and placing the right foot on the left thigh: standing thus like a tree on the ground, is called Tree Posture.”Gheranda Samhita 2.36
But tree pose appears to be much older than that. There is a 7th-century stone carving in Mahabalipuram, India that shows a figure standing on one leg, indicating that a pose similar to Vrikshasana (another spelling for Vrksasana) was in use at that time.
History tell us that sadhus (religious ascetics) and sages (holy men) would test their discipline by meditating in Tree Pose. Holding the pose for an extended time is believed to improve your austerity and was also used as a form of penance!
I am now imaging a guru telling their student “Now go stand in the corner — standing in Vrksasana — and think about what you’ve done!”
Patanjali refers to these practices of penance, or poses that challenge us and bring us to our edge, as Tapas. This is one of the Niyamas and can be used to help us practice restraint and control.
Tree Symbolism in Indian Mythology
One story I love about Tree Pose is that Bhagiratha, a wise sage, practiced Tapas by standing in Vrksasana for one thousand years. This action persuaded Brahma and Shiva to provide the water that created the Ganges.
In Indian mythology, trees are regarded as sacred. This is likely why Vrksasana is associated with something as important to India as the creating of the Ganges. Apart from the Hindu traditions, trees are also considered sacred in Jainism and Buddhism.
Symbolically, the tree is said to be strong and well grounded: it grows both upwards and downwards, building stability. The grounding action of your standing leg in Tree Pose represents the roots of a tree, and the lengthening of your arms overhead represents the branches — and these are the key aspects for growth if you are a tree, or if you are working to find your balance in Tree Pose.
Tree Pose Breakdown
How to do Vrksasana / Tree Pose
- Stand in Tadasana.
- Bend your right knee and turn your knee out to the right. Touch your foot to your inner left ankle or shin.
- Lift your right foot up and reach down with your right hand to hold your right ankle.
- Place your right foot high on the inside of your left thigh.
- Place your foot either fully above or below your knee joint. Do not press your foot into your knee.
- Bring your hands to Anjali Mudra in front of your heart.
- With your left leg push back into your right foot, and resist with your right foot. Use this connection to help your stretch your right knee out to the right more.
- Engage your standing leg by spreading your toes and pushing down through your left foot. Lift through your left knee to engage your knee and left quadriceps.
- Stretch your arms up overhead with your palms facing each other. Bring your arms into Urdhva Hastasana if you have tight or strong shoulders . Bring your arms into Urdhva Namaskarasana if possible. Whichever version you choose, straighten your arms.
- Find a point of focus (called a Drishti) for you to look at on the ground in front of you, straight ahead, or by looking up at your hands. Or you can take your gaze inside.
- This is Vrksasana.
- To come out of the pose, lower your arms and leg and return to Tadasana.
- This is two-sided pose so repeat the pose on your left side.
Modifications & Variations
Your Hip — Work to limit your hip jutting out to the side on your standing leg. Keep your hips as level as possible, just as they would be if you were standing in Tadasana.
Foot Placement — Don’t place your lifted foot directly on your knee. Instead place your foot fully above or below your knee to prevent putting too much sideways pressure on your knee joint.
Knee Position — The knee of your lifted leg will want to point forward because this takes less gluteus maximus strength. For many of us, tight inner thighs will also pull the knee forward). Work against this tendency and try to keep your knee pointing out to the side. Actively tighten your butt and strengthen your inner thigh to help with this.
When is a Tree not a Tree?
In Bikram yoga, Tree Pose (confusingly called Tadasana in Bikram yoga) is a slightly different standing posture, with one leg in Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus) and your hands in Anjali Mudra (prayer position).
If you have osteoporosis
You might want to try a supported version of Vrksasana where you place a chair under the shin bone of your lifted leg so you can rest your knee on the chair.
You can also practice near a wall for support
If you have difficulty balancing
You can practice Tree Pose next to a wall or with a chair next to you so that you can touch it to steady yourself. Over time, you can build the stability to come away from the wall or chair.
Or, you can also bring your foot up less high. Instead of bringing your foot all the way up on your opposite inner thigh, take it down a notch. Place your foot on the inside of your opposite ankle with your toes still on the ground (sort of like a kickstand).
You can practice tree here until you start to find the stability to bring your foot off the ground and a little higher up your leg.
If you have high blood pressure
Do not bring your arms overhead. Instead bring your hands into Anjali Mudra in front of your chest.
But remember — never place your foot on the inside edge of the opposite knee. The knee is a hinge joint and only likes to move backwards and forwards — so it’s not good to put sideways pressure on it!
If your foot keeps slipping down
Hold your ankle with one hand and use the other arm as needed to find your balance.
Want to take your Tree Pose further?
Try closing your eyes and see if you can keep balancing. This is a humbling variation: it forces your to be ok with falling and trying again.
You can also interlace your fingers behind your back to do a chest stretch and look up in a back bend. This is a great way to test your stability!
Yoga Poses Related to Vrksasana
- Dandasana / Staff Pose
- Sukhasana / Comfortable Pose
- Janu Sirsasana / Forehead to Knee Pose
- Salabhasana / Locust Pose
- Bhekasana / Frog Pose
- Baddha Konasana / Bound Angle Pose
- Uttanasana / Standing Forward Fold
- Tadasana Hindolasana / Standing Baby Cradle Pose
- Uttanasana with Paschima Baddhanguliyasana / Standing Forward Fold with hands bound behind back
- Utkatasana / Intense or Chair Pose
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Indudalasana / Standing Side Bend
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Tadasana / Mountain Pose
- Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
- Purvottanasana / Upward Plank Pose
- Janu Sirsasana / Forehead to Knee Pose
- Ardha Matsyendrasana / Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
- Natarajasana / Lord of the Dance Pose or Nataraja’s Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 & 2 / Extended Hand to Foot Pose 1 & 2
- Utthita Eka Padasana / Extended One Leg Pose
- Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana / Half-Bound Lotus Standing Forward Bend
- Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana / Revolved Forehead to Knee Pose
- Parighasana / Gate Keeper Pose
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: How To Do Garudasana — Benefits and Yoga Pose Breakdown
- Post: Trikonasana Benefits and Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Video: Yoga Pose Breakdown — Vrksasana (aka Tree Pose)
Gear & Resources for this Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Stephen’s Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Organic Cotton or Hemp Yoga Bolsters
- Cork Meditation Cushion
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
- Foam Yoga Wedge
- FeetUp Trainer headstand yoga stool
- Folding Yoga Chair
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- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
- Use our code AYO10 for 10% off all Corq yoga mats.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Vrksasana
I love slow growing trees that live for hundreds of years, like the Sequoia. And sometimes it feels like I will also need hundreds of years to practice Tree Pose before I’ll truly feel stable in it.
The good news is that all trees sway in the wind — and this is actually key to their stability. So remember that your tree doesn’t need to be too rigid. Keep it a bit free, a bit fluid. That’s how your tree will remain stable and grow and how you will continue to grow with your practice.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Tree Pose. I want these posts to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply and I hope this post helps you see this fairly common pose with new awareness and understanding. That’s what this yoga adventure is all about.