ASANAS - the postures of yoga

Asanas by first letter



We might not consider kneeling to be a vital yoga posture but this posture has a lot going for it.


In ancient teachings most postures were sitting positions for meditation.  Kneeling offers many of the similar advantages to practising yogis.


Vajrasana is performed by kneeling and sitting on the heels.  In this position the ankles and knees are stretched along with the upper thigh muscles – the quadriceps.  The spine and neck are held erect as described in the Bhagavad Gita for a seated yogi.  The hands can rest in the lap or be laid on the thighs.

Diamond pose or Kneeling firm pose.

Vajrasana can be a problem for some people.  Stiff knees and ankles can both make this an impossible posture to hold for any length of time.  A kneeling stool helps to take away the pressure in the knees and from the top of the feet when pressure is placed on the heels.  The stool is designed to have a slightly forward slope which helps to tilt the pelvis forwards into an angle from where the spine can comfortably rise.   A space is created behind the knees relieving pressure there and reducing the amount of stretch felt in the knees caused by tight quadriceps muscles.  With the seat raised a few inches from the back of the calves there is no pressure on the heels, ankles or insoles.


Alternatively, and as the knees become more comfortable, a cushion can be placed on the Achilles tendon area of the back of the leg; allowing a lower seat.  For some the pressure of the top of the feet against the ground is painful, or the ankles are so stiff that they cannot be comfortable extended.  A cushion placed under the lower shin permits a degree of bending at the ankle to take place.  If this posture is uncomfortable try to practise daily.  Begin with just a few seconds, if necessary supporting some of the body weight through the arms.  Gradually increase the time the position can be held.


With practise this pose should become perfectly comfortable and capable of being maintained for lengthy periods during meditation and pranayama exercises.  The ankles and knees become more flexible.  Stretching of the quadriceps muscles helps to correct overtight tendons in the groin which in turn affect the low back adversely.  It is said that the asana also allows free blood flow in the lower legs, benefiting varicose veins.  Sitting on the heels allows the spine to become correctly aligned, the abdomen to be lengthened, and chest and shoulders opened, bringing the body into a good position for correct breathing.


Vajrasana is an asana which repays practise.

Derek 2006





The Hero Pose, first stage

VRKASANA - Tree pose



This pose offers so much to the yogi.  Physically standing on one leg makes that leg work hard to become strong and stable, mentally the mind is focused as it concentrates on developing balance, psycho-spiritually the pose puts us in touch with the essence of the earth and the tree.


Remember that trees come in all shapes and sizes.  There is no one perfect pose of Vrkasana.


Stand in Tadasana (upright) with the weight evenly shared between both feet.  Feel the crown of the head lifting to the sky.  Transfer your weight into one foot – pause.  Lift the other foot from the ground starting with the heel.  When you are JUST touching the ground with the big toe – pause and make sure you are balanced.  Carefully lift the foot from the ground.



If balance is a problem keep the big toe touching the ground and turn the heel in to rest on the other foot.  The toe acts like an outrigger on a canoe.  Or take the foot out to the side a foot or so again just touching the ground to give reassurance.  The `balancing foot` can act rather like the aerial roots of the banyan tree.  Keep as much weight as possible in the foot you intend balancing on.


If possible place the lifted foot to rest on the balancing foot, or push the sole of the foot against the inside of the calf, over the knee joint, or against the inner thigh (difficult if you are wearing slippery clothing).


Eventually you may be able to comfortably cross the foot across the groin of the balancing leg as shown in the photograph.


Pause  and make sure your balance is secure.


Bring the hands together in the position of Anjali Mudra and mentally honour the spirit of the tree – Namaste.


When your balance is secure take the arms out to the side like tree branches.  Feel yourself growing like a tree as you stretch your arms wide, or up to the sky.  Let your fingers become your leaves opening them to the light.


Become your favourite tree: the Lombardy poplar grows tall and thin – stretch your arms high and bring the hands together.  Garden trees are often pruned into lollipop shapes – make a circle with your arms.  Oak and beech trees spread tall and broad, and Weeping willows hang their branches to sweep across the water in the wind – band over and let your arms hang loose and sway.


Trees grow with strong roots to hold them firm – make your feet be your roots.  The trunk has to be both strong to support the top of the tree, but also flexible to respond to winds and storms – feel your leg and trunk and the constant minor balance reflex movements.


Enjoy your `treeness` and after 30 seconds or more if you are comfortable slowly return to Tadasana in the reverse order.


Derek Osborn                                                  2006 02  

Honour the tree - Namaste

Become the tree reaching for the sky.

Hang like a weeping willow.