Teaching Balancing Holiday Yoga Classes: Tree Pose

teaching balancing yoga classesBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed. 

Are we teaching balancing Yoga classes at this time of year? As the holiday season gets into full swing, many of us find ourselves feeling rushed and a bit off center. With all of the holiday festivities underway, many students and teachers often find their own personal practices taking a back seat to other activities. As a professional Yoga instructor, you have the opportunity to support your students in maintaining a regular practice of asanas, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, which will support and promote their physical and emotional balance and well being during this busy time of the year.

At times, some of your Yoga students may also experience sadness, anxiety and underlying symptoms of depression, which are frequently heightened during the holidays. As a professional Yoga teacher, it is advisable to keep an eye out for those students who may need a little extra support during class. This support may come in the form of modifying some of the more strenuous postures with Yoga props, so that those students who would benefit from a more restorative practice can do so during the context of a well-rounded, multi-level class.

By incorporating balancing Yoga postures into your classes, you will support your students in maintaining their physical and emotional well being during the holidays. Some of the most beloved balancing Yoga postures are Side Plank Pose, Warrior III and Tree Pose. Tree Pose is a wonderfully grounding asana that is accessible to most Yoga students. This deceptively simple posture strongly helps to elongate the spine, opens up the side body and improves balance and coordination. It also helps to improve a student’s ability to focus and understand how he or she stands and balances on the earth.

Vrikshasana or Tree Pose

Vrikshasana is usually practiced after series of warming Sun Salutations. It is often practiced as a balancing pose that serves as a transition from the Sun Salutations into a series of standing postures. When you are ready to guide your students through the practice of Tree Pose, ask them to come to the front of their Yoga mats and stand in Mountain Pose. Before proceeding with the practice of Tree Pose, ask your students to simply feel the earth beneath their feet, as they take a few, full deep breaths.

This brief, simple breathing exercise will help to ground and center their awareness. When they are ready, instruct your students to place the sole of their right foot against their ankle, shin or inner thigh. Do make sure that your students do not place the sole of their foot directly against their knee joint. This can strain the knee joint and may cause an injury. With their next inhale, instruct your students to raise their arms over head and press their palms into Prayer Pose.

As they stand in Tree Pose, remind them to gaze at a steady point several feet in front of them. By holding a steady drishti, or gazing point, they will be more able to balance in Vrikshasana. The primary work in Tree Pose is to continue to elongate the spine by rooting down into the earth, in order to expand more fully towards the sky. In addition, by gently pressing the foot against the standing leg, your students will feel the hip-opening effect of this balancing Yoga posture.

After your students have held Tree Pose on the right hand side for 5 full breaths, ask them to release the pose with their next exhale and come back into Mountain Pose with their hands in Namaskar. Before practicing Tree Pose on the left hand side, instruct your students to pause for a moment to really feel the support of the ground beneath their feet. This simple act of feeling the balance of their own bodies on the Yoga mat will help to increase their sense of balance and connection to the earth itself. In turn, this grounded awareness will support your students’ sense of balance and clarity during the busy holiday season.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: enchantress108@gmail.com.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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