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One Pose—Three Ways

"Finding balance and practicing mindfulness is an essential part of life," said Deena Berger, a teacher at Primary and through The Yoke. "In the madness that is New York City, yoga improves my balance, allowing me to stay grounded and learn more everyday." Her classes infuse musicality and spirit, as demonstrated in her versions of vrksasana against a Manhattan skyline.

YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?

Deena Berger: Tree pose is a standing balancing posture that has many benefits. It builds strength and confidence, improves concentration and coordination, creates a sense of poise, the list goes on. For me, finding balance is an essential component of a full life on and off the mat. In NYC we are constantly on the go go go ­doing, thinking, working, playing, interacting with others and technology. Stimulated. Balancing postures (and balancing daily activities with introspective moments) we practice being rather than doing. Increasing our own self awareness and confidence by slowing down and being present, we connect with the un-investigated parts within ourselves to become more whole.

YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.

Vrksasana or tree pose strengthens the legs and creates a sense of balance and steadiness.

Both feet are grounded, the standing foot one roots into the floor and the lifted leg is rooted into the thigh (traditionally). Entering into tree raise the lifted knee, and then dropping that side of the pelvis take the sitting bone down and draw the knee out to the side until the frontal hip bones and sarcrum are even. The raised foot is grounding into the thigh of the standing leg and the inside of the standing leg is pushing into the raised foot ­ drawing everything into your midline. Shoulder blades onto the back, widening the collar bones and lifting up through the chest. Arms can be raised over head (photo 1) or palms at heart center (photo 2).

There are many variations of vrksasana. Steady your gaze!

YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?

DB: The second pose is a variation of the traditional vrksasana. In this variation the ball of the foot of the raised leg remains on the floor and the heel is placed on the inner ankle. This is a great introduction to tree pose and allows the yogi/ni a chance to work on balance, without lifting the raised leg completely off the floor. It’s like a training wheels on a bicycle allowing you to learn the fundamental cues in the rest of the body and eventually feel steady to raise the leg to the calf or the upper thigh. *Avoid pressing the lifted foot into the inner knee ­ this will cause knee injury. Steady your gaze!

YCNYC: What is the overall effect of the third pose on the body, and what does this one add to the understanding of the pose [and mind].

DB: Ardha Padmasana Vrksasana [Ardha = half / Padmasana = Lotus / Vrksa = tree / Asana = pose]. Half Lotus Tree Pose is a more challenging variation. It is a standing, hip opening posture that improves posture, balance and concentration similar to traditional vrksasana, and in addition is a prepartory pose for utthita hasta padangusthasana (Photo 4 challenge). The standing leg is in the same as vrksasana and tadasana [mountain pose]while the raised heel is resting as high as you can place it on the front of your right thigh or hip. The sole of this foot will be facing the sky. As long as there is no knee pain, allow the knee to drop down toward your mat and eventually align with the knee of your standing leg. Steady your gaze!

You can follow Deena on Instagram or through The Yoke to see when she is teaching in your area.

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