What I Learned About Tree Pose from the Tree Itself

By Dr. Gretchen KubackyLife Lessons, Thriving, , , , , , , ,

I’m blessed to live very close to the beach, but it was a warm and busy holiday, and I had to give up on finding parking. I was frustrated and annoyed, because I love my beach walks. Since it’s a holiday, the gym was closed too. And it was far too hot to take my alternate walk. So I pulled out my yoga mat and retreated to the backyard for a self-directed yoga session.

 

My heart wasn’t in it, and neither was my mind, but I decided to trust the process and just engage in the practice.  I didn’t feel like sitting, standing, or, quite frankly, doing much of anything but Shavasana (corpse pose).  But I persevered.  I thought my restless mind must be a symptom of internal imbalance – I felt like I must be DOING something, in spite of it being hot, in spite of not being in the mood, in spite of it being a holiday.

 

Avocado Tree with Yoga Mat

Avocado Tree with Yoga Mat

 

I gave myself a push and decided to do Vrksasana (tree pose), which is one of my least favorite poses, because I’m not good at it. I’m strong and I’m flexible, but I’ve always had a problem with balance, and tree pose requires balance.  As with most yoga poses, there are many possible adaptations, and the underlying lesson is always tolerance of what IS in this moment.

 

In some classes, the teacher will suggest placing a finger on the wall to promote stability. I didn’t have a wall, but I had a huge, beautiful avocado tree with a large canopy and a readily accessible knotty knob, conveniently situated just above my stubborn head.  So I touched the tree, and the tree stabilized me.  Nice adaptation!

 

As I was lying on the ground, looking up at the tree’s expansive canopy, I was thinking about the nature of the tree.  It’s a great tree.  It provides plenty of shade, as long as it’s not over-pruned. Some years it gifts me with four avocadoes, and some years a few hundred of the most delicious, creamy, organic Fuertes you can imagine.

 

It does what it wants, without malice. The tree is heavy, sturdy, perhaps even stubborn. It doesn’t change much over time – it gets a little bigger, a little smaller, a bit more fruitful, or perhaps not so productive. It continues on its path, affected by the elements and its human caretakers to be sure, but essentially unwavering.  It expects nothing more of itself. We expect nothing more of it.  How lovely. The tree is simply the tree.  My tree – my pose – is also simply my tree. Nothing more, nothing less. No judgment from the pose; all the judgment is mine.  The focus on imperfection is mine.

 

As is customary, I ended with Shavasana, a pose that requires complete relaxation and emptiness of mind. It too is a lovely pose, no more or less than the tree pose.  And finally, a silent Namaste (“I bow to the divine in you.”) to my partner, the tree, for its guidance and inspiration.