Runner Strong Yoga: Tree Pose

brunnerstrong

A lot of runners experience stiffness in their hips. Tree pose is a readily accessible yoga post for most people that can help you open your hips, stretch the inner thigh of the bent leg, strengthen the muscles of the standing leg, all while working on your balance as an extra bonus!

Fairytales and Fitness

Tree Pose: Good post run hip stretch
Tree Pose, when done correctly, can help stretch out those tight hip muscles after a run. It also really challenges your balance — which means that while props are not needed, you might want to practice tree pose near something you can hold onto.

I can get that foot up there — but should I?

The goal of Tree Pose is not to get your foot as high on your thigh as possible — for many people that will cause one hip to hike higher than the other. Do you want to train your body to run with hips not in a neutral position? Trust me, you don’t, and trying to go deeper into the pose than your body is capable of can cause injury.

Also be aware of where your foot is on the straight leg: you do not want it directly on your knee! Above or below the knee joint, please.

It’s not about how far back you can press the bent leg

Your hips do not need to be — in fact, should not be — pressed back in line with your body. This also causes most people’s hips to be out of alignment.

Muscles Targeted

  • Hip
  • Inner thigh
  • All muscles of the standing leg
  • Abs

 

Using a wall & keeping your hands on your hip can help you stay balanced

 

Contraindications

  • Have something nearby (a wall, a pole, a tree) if you have balance issues
  • Protect your knee by placing the bent leg on the ankle of your standing leg (for knee issues)
  • Keep hands on hips if you have shoulder problems

Watch Out For

  • Standing leg is leaning inward or outward
  • Foot on your knee — this can put a lot of stress on your knee joint
  • Shoulders elevated
  • Hips not level, side to side, up and down — or both!
  • Booty sticking out (spine out of neutral)
Most people will benefit more from practicing with their foot on their shin, not their thigh

How to Modify It
It’s very important to take your ego out of the picture to truly reap the benefits of Tree Pose. You don’t have to hike  your foot up super high to get a good stretch and strengthen your legs at the same time.

  • Keep foot of bent leg on the floor, propped up on your toes
  • Bring foot of bent leg to your shin
  • Practice near something to hold onto (like a chair) if you have balance issues
  • Practice near a wall, either to hold onto or to lean back into
  • If you find your shoulders creeping up towards your ears, bend your elbows so they’re in a goal post shape
Also notice how my straight leg is bending out here — not what you want!
Bending your elbows (even just a little) will help you relax your shoulders

Now let’s get into Tree Pose

  1. Stand at the top of your mat with your big toes together, hands on hips
  2. Inhale and engage your abs
  3. Bend one knee, and place your foot on your straight leg at a point (above or below your knee) that keeps your hips level
  4. Push your foot into your leg and your leg into your foot to help keep your balance
  5. Think about hugging everything into the midline of your body to help keep your balance
  6. Keep your gaze on a single object in front of you to help keep your balance
  7. Try taking your hands together at your heart center
  8. Slowly raise your arms towards the ceiling, while continuing to gaze ahead at a single object
  9. If your shoulders start to hike up, slightly bend your elbows, soften your shoulders, and see if you can straighten your arms without elevating your shoulders
  10. If you fall out of your tree, no big deal, just start over!
  11. As you hold this pose for several breaths, remember to press everything into the midline of your body to create more balance and a straight spine.
  12. Slowly lower your arms and leg.
  13. Pause, notice if you feel differently side to side.
  14. Repeat Tree Pose on the second side.

You can also stretch over towards the bend knee to get a nice side body stretch, but it’s more difficult to balance in that variation of the pose

Do you have a yoga pose you’d like to see featured here?

Do you have a favorite arm variation for Tree Pose?

If you try Tree Pose after a run, let me know how it felt!

38 thoughts on “Runner Strong Yoga: Tree Pose

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. I have very thigh hips and hardware on the side of my ankle. Tough pose.

    I wish I was motivated to do any yoga outside of classes. But am signing up for weekly classes again when I’m in town.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can you turn your ankle out at all? As I point out, you don’t have to even take your foot off the floor. Just turn it out that leg and come up on the ball of your foot with your ankle against the straight leg.

      The pose itself helps tight hips. 🙂

      Like

  2. Thanks, Judy, that was great! The photos are very helpful, too.
    I always thought that the bent foot should be as high as possible on the thigh. Now I know better. Watching out for the shoulders is an evergreen for me, so I will look out for that too.
    How about a future post on one of the warrior poses?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Warriors are definitely tricky! I am filing away the requested poses (obviously at one a month it’s gonna take some time).

      I wanted to start out with poses that could actually easily be done post run (although warrior does fall into that category).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. how interesting! I love yoga class, as you know. I do also put my leg up onto my thigh in tree pose. I have not paid attention to the angle of my hips but I sure will be now. While I am doing rehab for my hip, I will be hyper focused on the position. Thanks for the tip

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a lot of what I learned (and I used the word learned kind of loosely, LOL) — all those little nuances. They can make a huge difference!

      Although as you dive deeper into yoga, many of those same things come into play pose after pose.

      Like

    1. Frog is definitely a challenging pose. And it’s not one we did in my YTT, so I’m not sure I would feel comfortable breaking that down. OTOH, I do use it in my Yin classes — I might do an in person training in Yin next year (TBD) so it might be possible.

      Like

  4. Judy, I wish we lived closer. I would love to take a yoga class with you. You seem to really want your students (even the online ones) to learn to do the poses correctly. I think that’s so important in yoga. I am not very flexible, so I was never able to get my foot above my opposite knee in tree pose. I am glad to read that’s OK. I do have very tight hips, so this would be a good way to end a running workout. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The YTT I did was very focused on proper alignment. Now, not all styles of yoga (or yoga teachers) agree on what proper alignment is. But so much of what I learned made sense to me.

      I’ll be honest, of course it’s much, much simpler to write about a pose, when you can review your materials, and take your time, than to actually teach the pose. Cueing is really hard! Reading bodies can be hard, too. Especially multiple bodies (and there’s no way you can make sure 18 bodies in a class are all safe in the poses).

      There are actually similar poses you can do sitting down. It makes it a little easier because you take the balance part out (although we all need to work on our balance!), but they work on the same areas of our body. I decided to start with standing poses because they can be done so easily post run.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s just like writing versus having a conversation. When I write, I have a chance to review and refine my words. When I am having a conversation, I sometimes think of the perfect thing to say 5 minutes too late.

        One of the things I want to continue to work on is balance. My balance was never great, but as I get older it gets worse.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We all get worse at balance as we get older. Yoga can be great for working on that!

        I often think of the right thing to say later. Sometimes a day later. . .

        BTW, you’re doing Revel Mt. Hood in June (I think it’s June)? I’m thinking seriously about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yup, I know. I’ve heard such good things about that race company. Most likely I’ll sign up, although I can’t guarantee I’ll get there (but who can really?). Part of the reason I feel comfortable signing up is their generous deferral policy. Right now I need that!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I have a couple of blogger friends who’ve done Revel races. AND I love downhill races! Hopefully no more foot problems (I’ve done several downhill races that are similar without incident, but the recent race has me a little gun shy right now!).

        Like

  5. Ha – the arms in goal post shape really confused me but of course we don’t have those goal posts for football here! We say cactus arms, but usually use those when doing lying down twists where there’s not room to keep them outstretched. I will remember that for keeping those creeping shoulders down, so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love tree pose! It’s one pose that this balance-challenged gal can actually hold for quite a good length of time 😉 I had not heard of the falling tree pose, but I’m gonna try that next time 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had a yoga instructor who used to start class telling us to ‘check our egos at the door’. I’ve never forgotten that, especially when I try to muscle into a pose. How about triangle pose?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good one to try out, Meranda!

      People think they’re “not good at yoga” all the time. Yoga isn’t about being bendy, though. It can be about many things, really, but in the end, and important part is about connecting with your body — something we don’t do enough of these days!

      Like

  8. I am unable to do yoga just now per orders of DPT. hope to return to it in March after the prescribed year off…unless he tells me its forever.
    Your directions and photos are outstanding. I am keeping a bookmark folder with links to your yoga pages.

    I love tree pose and have some difficulty with balance. Your instructions are informative and helpful.
    Thanks, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I struggle with stiff joints and inner thigh muscles so this will be a good move for me to incorporate into my stretching after running. Do you have any moves that assist with relief for sciatic trouble?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First off, remember, I am not a doctor or a physical therapist, and haven’t personally dealt with sciatica, knock on wood.

      That said, one of the very best is a relatively easy knees to chest — just pulling your knees into chest. I would start with each leg by itself, and then end with both.

      If at any time you feel pain, STOP. You should never feel pain in yoga (or stretching).

      Other poses that might help are reclining hamstring stretch — where you are laying down on your back, and bring one leg straight up to the ceiling with a strap around the ball of your foot. You can bend the leg on the floor if that feels like too deep a stretch.

      Cobra pose may also help. We were taught to do it with arms out in a V in front of you, rather than tucked into your sides. Start with just coming up a little.

      The biggest problem with sciatica is that it has many different causes.

      Like

      1. Some good moves that I need to try. I do understand you’re not a physician but you do know yoga and we all know it is a great exercise form for flexibility and strength. I tried the tree pose after my last run. I plan to continue & maybe I can get good enough at that pose to not all over. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s