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tree pose

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I’ve recently heard of a few people who have suffered falls related to various medical conditions: vision impairment, alzheimer’s, faints, and cancer.

While younger people might pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on, falling can lead to more serious problems in the aged population. Some will suffer bone fractures and breaks but also the gradual diminution of confidence. This may lead to loss of independence and perhaps the eventual need to move into an aged care facility.

Yoga is often touted as beneficial for improving the sense of balance. This is just one advantage of doing regular yoga practice. Dr. Timothy McCall in this book, Yoga as Medicine, lists 40 different ways that yoga facilitates better health, improved balance being just one.

I think that as a yoga teacher, I have a duty of care to my older students to give them practice in and encouragement to do balancing poses – even though often times these are the very poses they avoid.

Tree pose (vrshkasana) can be taught at many levels, from holding on to a chair or having a wall behind for support. When you’ve mastered the classic pose and you want to test your balance, try it with your eyes closed.

Here’s some tips for people who are unsteady on their feet:

Start in Mountain Pose (tadasana) and spend a minute feeling into both feet, spreading your toes and connecting with the four corners of your feet.

Slowly, begin to shift weight onto the right foot, lifting the left foot off the floor.

Pick a point to focus on that doesn’t move and keep a steady gaze, breathing all the while.

Bend the left knee and bring the sole of the foot onto the inner right thigh.

Press your left foot into your right thigh, while keeping both hips stay squared.

8. Repeat the move while standing on the left foot.

Beginners: If you cannot bring the left foot high inside the right thigh, bring it lower on the right leg — but be careful to avoid placing the left foot directly on the right knee. Use the wall for balance if necessary or keep one hand on a chair.

As you become more skilled at tree pose, you’ll raise your arms overhead and move on to other one leg balancing poses like Eagle Pose (garudasana).

Garudasana