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Tree Pose: Strengthen Your Ankles and Develop Balance

Some yogis in tree pose drawn by my good friend Michael Gigliotti.  And my beloved teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, as beautiful, flowering trees.

Our ankles bear the weight of our bodies, all day, everyday so it's critically important to strengthen them and keep the ligaments and tendons in prime condition.  Everyone should be rotating their ankles, in both directions everyday.  Try making as big a circle as possible with your foot, pushing the limits of your flexibility.  You should feel a stretch as you move your ankle around.  Don’t get discouraged if you have very little mobility because it will get easier and your range of movement will increase if you continue to open up the joint.  Point you toe and stretch the front of your ankle, then flex your foot, stretching the Achilles tendon, and then move your foot from side to side.  Feel yourself opening up the joint.  After you have stretched the joint and loosened it up, its time to strengthen it.

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Tree pose (Vrksasana) is an amazing, simple asana that improves your balance and strengthens all of the tendons of the ankle.  To come into tree pose, stand with your feet together and really stand up, stomach engaged, chest opening, shoulders on the back in a powerful, yoga type of standing that is called Mountain pose (Tadasana).  Focus your gaze on one point to help steady your balance and begin to move your weight into one leg. Pick up the other foot and place the sole of that foot on the inner thigh of the opposite leg.  If your foot doesn’t reach the inner thigh, you can place it below the knee, but be careful to avoid placing the foot against the knee which can be harmful.  Press down through the standing foot, really root down like a tree, and feel the body lifting up from there.  Maintain the uplift and openness of your chest that you established in tadasana.  Bring the hands into prayer position or try reaching them up, shoulder width, palms facing towards each other.  Bring your attention to your standing ankle, and feel it getting stronger.  Do this pose on the both legs, and try holding for as long as you can, starting with 5 powerful and steady breaths on each side.  Do this a few times a week and you will notice more stability in the your ankle.


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