Getting fresh air and regular movement can encourage play and ease anxiety and stress. These 10 yoga poses—practiced among the trees—can help you tap into the healing power of nature.
In this time of caution, people are likely missing their yoga-based gatherings, and by now may be feeling cooped up and a little stir crazy. The solution: step outside for a few poses.
According to a recent CNN report, authorities and experts are recommending outdoor activity—as long as you aren't required to shelter in place and can maintain social-distancing and hand-washing protocol. You should avoid playgrounds and park facilities, but your own backyard or an open area could be the perfect setting for some asana in the fresh air.
For inspiration, and a way to play, we tapped the wisdom and practices Jenny Garrison writes about in her new book Yoga With Trees:
Humans and trees share some amazing similarities. Our human breathing meshes with the breathing of the trees in exchanges of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Our internal human respiratory system actually resembles the shape of a tree. The inner growth ring of a tree looks a lot like a human fingerprint. We also share an upright posture with the trees. Our spines lift vertically as do the trunks of trees.
In the groundbreaking work, The Miracle of Trees, author and tree expert Olavi Huikari reminds us “We humans share about 50 percent of our DNA with Trees.”
Take a deep breath and set the intention to look at trees with childlike wonder. Does one individual tree draw your attention? Let yourself be among the trees as if you were with other “playmates” in a neighborhood. (Even if you're 90, you still have a child inside you, and the trees are safe friends who will accept you as you re-visit your childlike heart in this way.) Allow yourself freedom of movement, expression, relationship, and feeling. If you are self-conscious about this, find a place where you can be alone with the trees and no one will question or judge you. Allow the gift of wonder to be part of this experience. Trees are on slow time. It is a welcome and wonderful balance and a relief from a world busy with man-made activity, excessive thinking, and worries.
In yoga, we speak of “witness consciousness.” This is the state of awareness wherein we basically observe our bodies, our sensations, our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. This shift in awareness allows us to become a neutral observer of ourselves. This means noticing what is going on in a given situation with simple awareness—just noticing, not judging.
In witness consciousness, we are present to ourselves and the world around us in the here and now. We are observers of our behavior, our thoughts and feelings, and our “Be-ing.” This witness state is embodied by the trees. They stand where they are. Their time is unhurried time. They help us to slow down and release anxiety. They can help us by example to settle into “Be-ing-ness.”
Trees also show us the message of seasonal cycling. Spring time for trees teaches bursting forth and new life. Summer teaches expression, light, and color. Fall is fruition and letting go. Winter is rest. These qualities are essential parts of the human spirit.
The following sequence is one way to “yoke” with life and the outdoors, providing some relief from stress and anxiety and inspiration for much-needed moments of play.
Excerpted from Yoga with Trees, available in eBook and softcover where books are sold ©2019 by Jenny Garrison.
Jenny Garrison is the author of two books, Yoga with Treesand Imagery In You: Mining for Treasure in Your Inner World. She is author of the audio CD, "Gentle Yoga with Jenny Garrison." Garrison is a Kripalu-trained yoga teacher with many credentials in the field of inner imagery. Jenny lives with her husband and animals in the woods of Northern Pennsylvania. Find her at jennygarrison.com and on Facebook @yogawithtrees.