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Yoga Pose Primer: Plant Strong Roots with Palm Tree Pose!
Daily practice is the cornerstone of anyone’s yoga journey. But it’s not always easy to find a block of time to practice. Sometimes we have to take what we can get. On those days when our schedules are wall to wall, it can be a fun creative challenge to figure out how to sprinkle some asana into your day.
Because I have a part-time desk job, I like to take mini asana breaks. One of my favorite ways to break up the physical and mental sludge that accumulates while I sit at the computer is to practice Talasana (Palm Tree Pose).
Talasana (Palm Tree Pose)
Palm Tree Pose is really a variant of Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the basic standing pose upon which all other poses are built, according to the Iyengar tradition. When I studied with Iyengar in 1989, I felt that if, after three weeks of intensive classes I had an inkling of an understanding of Tadasana, I’d be more than happy. For me, this pose is the key to understanding all the rest of the asanas.
Like a swaying palm tree, Talasana builds on Tadasana’s foundation. In Talasana, we set down strong roots, stabilize our trunk, and allow our coconuts (skulls) and arms (leaves) to bend with the wind. Okay. That’s a pretty corny image, but it actually might be a helpful way to approach the practice.
Talasana is an almost universally safe and healthy pose for anyone to practice. That said, if you have a rotator cuff injury or any other condition that inhibits your ability to raise your arms above shoulder level, I’d suggest practicing with your hands on your hips instead, focusing on the lateral bend of your spine.
How to Practice Palm Tree Pose
Stand with your feet about hips width apart. If you know where your ischial tuberosities (sitting bones) are, you may want to experiment with setting your feet directly below them.
Give your weight to your feet. Then extend your feet into the floor as if you are putting down roots. You may feel a gentle upward rebound in your body as you plant your feet. If so, you are experiencing what Donna Farhi calls “active yield,” creating a balanced relationship to the force of gravity.
Take a few deep breaths in Tadasana, feeling how your relationship to gravity shifts on the inhalation and exhalation.
Raise your arms overhead. There are several ways to connect your hands. The traditional hand position is to interlace your fingers and turn your palms upward. Another variation that I like is to clasp one wrist with your other hand. In this case, clasp your right wrist with your left hand. You can also widen your arms to at least shoulder-width apart and hold a strap. Experiment with all these options to decide which works best for you on a given day.
Root deeply through your right foot, extending the pelvis down into your foot, and then bend your torso to the left. Stay for five to ten breaths, allowing your body to respond to your breath.
Explore twisting and bending from here. Take some time and play with it. See what areas of tension you can uncover by moving around. A palm tree bends in the direction of the wind. Use your internal wind (your breath) and your body awareness to guide you to where your torso, shoulders, and arms need the most attention.
Stay easy with it. As with all yoga asana, Talasana practice is not a performance. It’s an opportunity to explore and awaken the unconscious corners of our bodies and minds. When you come back to the center, stand silently in Tadasana to allow Talasana to settle into your body, and to feel what has changed. Then move to the other side, remembering that your second side is a whole new exploration.
If you work at a computer regularly, make a commitment to get up from your desk every 20-30 minutes and make like a palm tree. Note how your mind and body respond to even a short respite.
I've read viewpoints on Talasana that describe how easy it is–that it’s only a stepping stone to the more important, fancier poses. I disagree. While Palm Tree Pose can serve as a great warm-up for asana practice, it is a worthy yoga pose on its own. You don’t need a yoga mat or to change into yoga-specific clothing to practice. You can weave this pose into your life, in the little windows of time sprinkled throughout the day. If you want to grow a yoga practice, Talasana gives you a place to set down your roots.
Study with YogaUOnline and Deborah Wolk - Principles of Therapeutic Yoga for Back Care.
Would you like to read another yoga pose primer from Charlotte Bell? Read Anjaneyasana: Reach for the Sun.
Reprinted with permission from Hugger Mugger Yoga Products
Charlotte Bell began practicing yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. She was certified by B.K.S. Iyengar in 1989 following a trip to Pune. In 1986, she began practicing Insight Meditation with her mentors Pujari and Abhilasha Keays. Her asana classes blend mindfulness with physical movement. Charlotte writes a column for Catalyst Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. She is the author of two books: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. She also edits Hugger Mugger Yoga Products¹ blog and is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, she plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and the folk sextet Red Rock Rondo whose 2010 PBS music special won two Emmys.