Ancient Stories, Modern Telling: Tree Pose

If you've ever thought about tree pose, you may have noticed that it doesn't really look like a tree. The name "tree pose" comes not from its shape, but from the way we focus and root into the earth when we take the pose. Its origin hails from a love story, and like many a tale about true romance, our story begins with a good old fashioned kidnapping.

 Meet Ravana: Sanskrit for "of terrifying roar" ( source )

Meet Ravana: Sanskrit for "of terrifying roar" (source)

We'll start with the bad guy: enter demon king, Ravana. He's got ten heads that (to the deities) all look like Mark Wahlberg circa 1992, and he runs the game like Pablo Escobar in season one of Narcos. He boasts a harem of 100 satisfied wives and a squad of elite monster-baddies to do his bidding. But, like any worthy bad guy, Ravana wanted more...

The "more," and heroine, of our story is Queen Sita. Her husband is Rama, a form of Vishnu (aka the Protector) and an all-around respected dude. She's known for being the tiptop of wifey and feminine virtues, and on top of that, she's the goddess of wealth.

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So one day, Ravana catches a glimpse of Queen Sita on the divine IG and hits her in the DM. She, of course, blows him off.

In a total cliche demon move, he kidnaps her and brings her to his private island/fortress, called Lanka. He's pretty sure that once Sita sees his crib, car, and clothes, it'll go down. He presents her with the most beautiful, pleasurable, rare, and spectacular things in existence, but she shoots them all down. "You seem to forget I'm taken," she hissed, "but Rama hasn't, and you're going to wish you'd never touched his game."

"Rama's pool is nice, mine's just bigger is what I'm saying..." he pleaded, to no avail.

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Ravana even promised to make her his main, but Sita laughed him off. "Thanks for the prison tour," she said, leaving the palace without even getting to the aquarium or the movie theater. She headed for the forest, where she sat with her back against an ashoka tree.

The island lady-beast squad took to Sita, trying to persuade her to get with Ravana, promising she'd love it and that, real talk, she wasn't going to leave the island alive... so she may as well join in on the fun. 

Sita stayed calm and rooted herself; after all, she was the daughter of earth itself, Bhumi Devi. She figured if anyone could go Lorax and speak to the trees, it was her. Her mantra became "Rama, find me..." and she fixed her focus on him. By meditating on Rama (a form of god), she felt the trees reassure her that rescue was near, and they echoed her chant out into the universe.

On the mainland, Rama summoned his loyal flying supermonkey, Hanuman, and commanded him to rescue Sita. He gave Hanuman his ring, as proof for Sita. When Hanuman arrived at the ashoka tree, Sita heard him chant "Rama" with the same conviction as her own voice, and she knew Hanuman was her rescuer before he even whipped out the bling.

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So wait, where does yoga come into all this?

When we practice tree pose, or vrikshasana, we're channeling Queen Sita.

We root ourselves into the earth (against the ashoka tree) for stability and strength.

We focus on a single point (devotion to Rama).

We clear our minds of the outside chatter (Ravana's efforts).

In a place of mental calmness and clarity, we are open to receiving what we need (Hanuman's rescuing).

It's true, when we're not distracted by the persuasions, temptations, or pressures of the outside world, we are more likely to find the answers we're looking for. Next time you find yourself wavering in tree pose, think of Sita's devotion and focus on a fixed point. But, if a divine monkey comes down from the sky, call animal control.