Want to Age Well? Do Tree Pose Every Day for Better Balance

If you can't touch your toes and think that means you can't do yoga, think again. Better yet, it might be one type of exercise you want to start (or continue) practicing into your golden years — especially balancing postures like tree pose.

Whether or not you're familiar with this asana (which means "posture" in Sanskrit) or it's completely new to you, tree pose is perfect for beginners and totally customizable. That means you can adjust the pose according to ‌your‌ body and still reap all the benefits!

Yoga and Healthy Aging

Research shows adopting a yoga practice can have benefits for cellular aging, mobility, balance and mental health, and it's been tied to the prevention of cognitive decline (i.e. loss of brain function due to aging), according to an August 2021 review in ‌Advances in Geriatric Medicine and Research‌.

Policymakers have even begun to consider how implementing community and home-based yoga programs may offer a way to lower medical costs and improve health outcomes for older adults and seniors, per the same review.

But if not you're able to get to a studio or you don't have an hour to spend on your mat, you can still reap some the aging benefits of yoga by practicing balancing postures like tree pose, which train your posture and balance, strengthen your lower body and core and help calm the nervous system for less stress and better sleep.

How to Do Tree Pose

Tree pose is a hip-opening posture that works deeply into the groin and inner thighs, so you may want to warm up your hips with a posture like reclined or seated cobbler's pose first for about 3 to 5 deep belly breaths.

If you're feeling loose, you can practice tree pose without a warmup. Just be sure to move slowly and modify or stop if you feel any pulling or painful sensations. As always, talk to your doctor or physical therapist before adding a new exercise or yoga posture into your routine.

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Let your arms hang by your sides, palms facing out, and your eyes gazing straight ahead. 

Engage your core as you put your weight onto your right foot and lift your left knee up toward your belly, grabbing hold of the knee at the top. 

Keep the standing leg straight but don't lock the knee. (Try your best not to bend down to grab the knee or foot.) 

Grab hold of your left ankle or foot and place the sole of your left foot onto the inside of your right thigh. Allow your left knee to relax down. 

Alternatively, you can place the sole of your left foot just below your knee. Never place the foot directly on the knee! 

Once you feel stable here, place your palms together in front of your heart and roll your shoulders down and back (away from your ears), creating length in your abdominals and upper back. 

For a more active stretch in the upper body, extend your arms above your head in a V shape, rolling the shoulders down and away from the ears. 

Hold the posture for 3 to 5 deep belly breaths. 

To come out of the pose, slowly bring your left knee back up toward your belly so that your knee is facing forward before slowly and gently placing the foot back down on the ground. 

Take 3 to 5 breaths before switching to the other side. 

How to Modify Tree Pose

If you're finding it hard to balance in tree pose, start with a different version. You can modify tree pose by placing your left heel onto your right ankle, keeping the ball or toes of your left foot on the ground.

In this version, focus on engaging your legs and core and lifting up through the front of your body as you press your right foot down.

If you're still finding it hard to balance, you can also practice tree pose next to a wall and use a hand on the wall to keep you stable. Focus on your breathing, and when you feel stable, play around with taking your hand off the wall.

posted Saturday March 11th