Half Lotus Tree Pose (“Ardha Padmasana Vrksasana” in Sanskrit) is a standing, hip-opening posture that improves balance and concentration. This pose is the foundation for Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana) in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, and is also the preparatory position for Toe Stand Pose in Bikram Yoga.
Many children naturally have the ability to place one foot on the opposite thigh. But, many people lose this hip flexibility over time due to the seated nature of modern life: We sit in chairs, cars, and on the couch. Early yogis didn't have this problem because they didn't sit in chairs. Instead, they sat on the floor, often cross-legged — a practice that keeps the hip joints flexible and open. Many people these days, though, need to invest extra time into practicing hip-opening positions. Regular practice of balancing poses, like Half Lotus Tree Pose, will gradually open your hip joints and bring your spine into correct alignment.
Benefits of Half Lotus Tree Pose
Half Lotus Tree Pose improves posture, balance, and concentration. It requires and helps to create a calm and clear mind, free of extraneous worries and thoughts. This pose increases flexibility in the hip joints, knees, and ankles. It also strengthens the internal oblique muscles in the abdomen, which help to prevent hernia. Regularly practicing this pose regulates and balances the function of the central nervous and lymphatic systems, as well.
Yoga is action with undivided, uninterrupted attention.
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic knee or hip injury. Due to the balancing nature of this pose, do not practice Half Lotus Tree Pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, low blood pressure, or if you are lightheaded and/or dizzy. Those with high blood pressure should not raise their arms overhead in the pose. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your arms at your sides.
- Shift your weight to your left foot, and then ground down firmly.
- Moving slowly, bend your right knee up toward your chest. Raise your right foot and gently bring your right heel to rest as high as you can on the front of your left thigh or hip. The sole of your foot should be facing the sky, and the top of your foot should rest on your leg or hip.
- If you have no knee pain, then allow your right knee to drop down. Eventually, your bent knee will be in line with the knee of your standing leg, but be careful never to force it.
- Hold onto your right foot with your left hand. Draw both hips forward. Lengthen your spine.
- Keep your gaze focused on one spot on the floor, about four feet in front of you.
- Bring your right hand to the center of your chest in half prayer position (Anjali Mudra). If it is possible without dropping your right foot, bring your left hand to meet your right, pressing your palms together.
- Hold for up to one minute.
- To release the pose, hold onto your right foot again with your left hand. Gently draw the foot away from your body and lower it to the floor. Stand again in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Repeat on the opposite side for the same amount of time.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing Half Lotus Tree Pose can be a great way to gain poise, balance, and grace. Try these simple changes to adapt the pose to your current abilities:
- If you are unable to bring your foot to your hip, place your raised foot on top of your standing-leg thigh, instead. Only bring your foot as far up as you can without causing pain.
- If you are very unsteady, try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for extra support. Alternatively, you can place a chair next to the standing-leg side of your body. Then, rest your hand on the back of the chair for extra support in the pose.
- For a greater challenge when your hands are in prayer position, close your eyes. Practice balancing without using the outside world for reference.
In order to fully gain the benefits of Half Lotus Tree Pose, it's important to keep your mind calm while maintaining alignment. Here are a couple of tips to help you in the pose:
- Take your time. As with any balancing pose, it's often easier to come into the pose slowly and with awareness. If you enter the pose too quickly, you are more likely to lose your balance and it's more difficult to re-gain your balance once it's been lost.
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana) provides the structural foundation for Half Lotus Tree Pose. Thoroughly review the instructions for Mountain Pose before practicing this pose.
- Work the pose from the ground up. Balance your weight evenly across your standing foot. Then, find balance and strength in the shin, calf, and thigh of your standing leg. Find alignment in your hips, tailbone, pelvis, and belly; and then in your collarbones, shoulder blades, arms, and neck.
- Extend the pose through the crown of your head. Imagine that you're trying to touch the ceiling with your skull.
- Do not keep the raised foot in place by sticking out your buttocks. Instead, tuck your tailbone and maintain alignment through your spine.
- To help with balancing, bring your awareness to the center line of your body — the vertical line that runs directly through the center of your head, neck, and torso.
- Regularly practicing Half Lotus Tree Pose will tone your abdominal muscles, but weaker muscles can make it difficult to balance. Add extra core-strengthening work into your practice to help with balancing (and with the rest of your standing poses!). Some examples of core-toning poses are Boat Pose (Navasana) and Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana).
Balance & Grow
Regularly incorporating balancing poses into your practice will help you gain focus, coordination, concentration, and a steady mind. Opening up your hips creates better postural alignment, poise, and grace. By combining these benefits in Half Lotus Tree Pose, you'll be well on your way to standing tall in all areas of your life, on and off the mat!