It is a classic scene — you trip and fall, and your first knee-jerk reaction is to see if anyone saw you.
When I teach tree pose in yoga class, most everyone looks as if it is a matter of life or death whether they stay up on one leg for the duration. But fear is not helpful in navigating balance.
Balance is a matter of catching yourself quickly as you fall out of center. When you are relaxed, you are sensitive and quick. The more sensitive you are to the small oscillations of your body, the quicker and more accurately you can respond.
Here’s how to make tree pose a fun experiment with balance:
Start by standing in mountain pose. On your inhalation, pick up your right foot and place the sole of your right foot as high up on the inner left thigh as possible. Press your left thigh into your right foot while your right foot presses evenly back against your left thigh. Even though you want your legs strong, it is essential to keep them fluid.
Reach your arms above your head. Play with shifting the placement of your hips. Play with shifting your rib cage. Play with shifting your head. The more aligned your entire skeleton is, the more all the muscles of your body can stay fluid. Even with your straight leg being strong, the ability to adjust at your ankle, knee, or hip is paramount.
As you are maneuvering within tree pose, feel the energy moving from your legs up to your chest.
When you fall out of tree pose, relax, feel, and learn.
Playing with balancing on one leg will always improve your overall sense of balance. Just make sure that it is a game of experimentation and exploration. Fall into fun, not fear.
P.S. Get more how-to video and tips on yoga poses in any of my yoga DVDs.