Man doing Tree Pose (yoga posture) inside

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A Step-By-Step Guide On How to Do Tree Pose (or One of Its Many Variations)

It simultaneously grounds you and lifts you up.

By Elizabeth MillardJune 28, 2024


When it comes to the most recognized yoga poses, Tree Pose (Vrksasana) ranks near the top of the list. Why? Well, the balancing posture can be modified for pretty much every experience level, and it’s a simple way to introduce a breadth of benefits into your practice. Better stability? Check. Improved focus? Tree Pose has it covered. 

Let's take a look at this standing asana and discuss why you should consider doing it the next time you step onto your mat.

What Is Tree Pose (Vrksasana)?

Tree Pose is a standing yoga posture that challenges your balance, stability, and focus in one foul swoop. In this asana, you press the sole of one foot into the inner side of your standing leg and bring your arms above you, creating the shape of a tree. 

Typically, instructors cue Tree Pose, along with other standing postures, in the middle of a yoga sequence once you’ve already warmed up your muscles. Plus, it's easier to focus at that point, as you’ve already been tuning into your breath. However, that's not a hard-and-fast rule, and Tree Pose can appear at the beginning of a class, according to Peloton yoga instructor Kristin McGee

"Personally, I think the beauty of Tree Pose is that it can be done anywhere in a sequence or even as a standalone posture when you need to find some stillness, balance, or focus," she says. "You don't need to be too warmed up before doing this pose, although you need some hip flexibility in the leg that opens up. I like to do a few Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskars) before a standing balance like Tree Pose, but you can also put the pose into a warm-up sequence."

The Benefits of Tree Pose

Like other balance postures, Tree Pose benefits your body and mind. As you get more used to standing on one leg, it bolsters your emotional health just as much as your muscles and joints, Kristin says.

"Tree Pose helps with focus, concentration, and stability," she explains. "It strengthens your core, legs, ankles, and feet, and also helps lengthen your spine and open up your hips. That can help us feel more grounded and centered."

How to Do Tree Pose

Below, find step-by-step instructions on how to practice Tree Pose, which involves focusing on your breath and balance.

Denis Morton doing Tree Pose GIF
  1. Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. Bring your hands to your hips or press your palms together in a prayer position in front of your heart.

  2. Shift your weight into your right foot and lift your left foot off the ground. Bend your left knee and open it to the left side.

  3. Place the sole of your left foot against your right ankle, calf, or upper thigh. Whatever you do, avoid placing your foot against your knee.

  4. Focus on a single object or space in front of you. Keeping your eyes still can help you maintain balance and hold Tree Pose for a longer period of time.

  5. To increase the balance challenge, raise your arms. If you feel like you're about to fall, gently engage your core muscles to center your weight. However, if you do lose your balance, it’s OK. Just ease back into the posture.

  6. Hold the pose for five breaths before switching sides.

Why Is Tree Pose So Difficult?

Tree Pose may not require you to take a major twist or flip upside down, but that doesn’t mean it’s effortless. For starters, many of us can balance on one side better than the other, so this posture can highlight imbalances. And if you’re someone who has trouble standing still for extended periods of time, Tree Pose can challenge you to slow down and zero in on your focus. 

Common Mistakes

Because Tree Pose engages muscles throughout your body, there’s a lot of different parts to think about, from your foot’s positioning to your breathing pattern. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make in Tree Pose. 

  • Placing your foot on your inner knee. Always place your foot on flesh, not bone. So make sure you position it on either your inner calf or inner thigh, never your knee.

  • Leaning into your standing leg. To avoid this mistake, keep your weight even in your supporting foot. 

  • Looking around while trying to maintain balance. It's important to set your gaze on a single, unmoving object. 

  • Forgetting to use your core. Understandably, you might be thinking about your legs in Tree Pose, but don’t underestimate the importance of core engagement. These muscles hold your torso up and are essential to the posture. 

  • Holding your breath. When you feel challenged by balance postures, you may hold your breath (sometimes without even realizing it). However, this tends to make your muscles tense up and throw off your alignment. Slow, deep breaths can help you relax into the pose, regardless of the variation you take.

How to Do Tree Pose Modifications and Variations

As you explore Tree Pose, it's fun and rewarding to play around with different variations—whether you want to deepen the balance challenge or shave off some of the intensity. Here are some options to keep in your repertoire.

Beginners: How to Modify Tree Pose

If you're new to Tree Pose (or just feel like taking a more gentle variation), try the following modification:

  1. Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. 

  2. Place the sole of your left foot against the inside of your right ankle instead of bringing it up to your right calf or thigh. This way, you can keep the ball of your left foot and your toes on the ground, almost like a kickstand, and focus on opening your hip instead of worrying about balancing. For added stability, hold onto a wall or chair.

  3. Stay in the pose for a couple breaths instead of the full five.

Intermediate and Advanced: How to Increase the Challenge In Tree Pose

If you’re looking to intensify Tree Pose, take one of the following progressions:

  1. Bring your arms behind you. Either clasp your hands behind you or come into reverse prayer with your palms pressed together. As a bonus, this modification helps expand your chest and shoulders.

  2. Hold the pose for as long as possible on each side. Rather than holding it just for a certain number of breaths, test how long you can maintain your balance. 

  3. Close your eyes. Taking away your visual reference makes it more challenging to balance in Tree Pose.

  4. Bring your top foot off your inner thigh and into your hip crease instead. This variation creates a different alignment than the standard version while still keeping your hip open.

5 Yoga Poses That Help You Prepare for Tree Pose

Maybe you don’t feel quite ready to take Tree Pose or its modification—and that’s completely OK. Consider doing a more accessible yoga posture that can help you open your hips more easily, which is particularly useful when you’re holding a balancing pose.

Woman does Child's Pose, yoga for bloating

1. Child's Pose (Balasana)

Spreading your knees far apart and relax your core can help loosen the muscles in your hips.

  1. Come to your hands and knees on the mat.

  2. Spread your knees to the width of your mat, keeping the tops of your feet on the floor with your big toes touching.

  3. Rest your stomach between your thighs and place your forehead on the floor. You can also stack your hands in front of you and rest your forehead on top of them if that feels more comfortable. If you're not stacking your hands, stretch your arms in front of you with your palms toward the floor or ceiling.

  4. Deepen your breath as you inhale and soften your breath as you exhale.

Supine Spinal Twist GIF from Peloton class | The Output by Peloton

2. Supine Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Lying on your back gives you a feeling of support, particularly when you’re in a twist.

  1. Lie on your back. Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the floor, and cactus your arms out in a “T” shape with your palms facing the ceiling.

  2. Press into your feet as you lift your hips slightly off the floor. Shift them about an inch to your right, helping them "stack" when you move into the twist and removing pressure from your lower back. 

  3. Cross your right leg over your left leg.

  4. Let your legs drop gently to the left toward the ground. Make sure your right shoulder remains on the floor, even if it means pulling back the twist. 

  5. Stay in this position between 30 seconds and one minute. Then, come back to center and realign your hips while uncrossing your legs. 

  6. Repeat the movements on the other side.

3. Supine Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

From Supine Twist Pose, it's easy to transition into this asana. 

  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring the soles of your feet together.

  2. Allow your legs to naturally fall open. Your knees may or may not be on the floor. If it's uncomfortable, put a yoga block under each knee.

  3. Deepen your breath as you inhale and soften your breath as you exhale.

4. Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana)

This pose is geared toward releasing tension in your hips, Kristin says. Doing it on your back can help you feel more supported and allow you to stay in the pose for longer.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and your feet on the ground.

  2. Cross your left foot over your right quad, placing your left ankle under your right knee. 

  3. Lift your right foot until your shin is parallel to the ground.

  4. Hold the back of your right leg and gently pull it toward your chest.

  5. Once you feel a comfortable stretch, hold the position for one to three minutes.

  6. Switch sides and repeat.

Man practices Mountain Pose, yoga for anxiety

5. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This grounding pose offers a good opportunity to deepen your breath, Kristin says. Doing it right before Tree Pose helps you feel more rooted to the ground.

  1. Stand with your feet either shoulder-width distance apart or hip-width distance apart, whatever feels more comfortable. Put a slight bend in your knees.

  2. Shrug your shoulders up by your ears. Then, imagine your shoulder blades coming together and relaxing downward. This movement will get your shoulders into a neutral, relaxed position.

  3. Allow your arms to hang by your sides, with your palms facing forward as an added shoulder release.

  4. Breathe mindfully for 30 seconds to one minute (or longer if you feel like you're relaxing more with each breath).


Featured Peloton Instructor

Headshot of Peloton instructor Kristin McGee. She's wearing a red two-piece Peloton workout outfit and smiling.

Kristin McGee

Growing up in Idaho, Kristin had dreams of pursuing dance and acting in New York, but ended up as one of the most sought after yoga instructors in the city.


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