Tree Pose

Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By RACHEL PARKER | Special to the Palisadian-Post

Summer is tiptoeing its way to the Southern Hemisphere and soon our days of languor will be usurped by weeks and months of unending accountability to others.

Yes, the myriad endeavors of colleagues, companions and offspring merit our sincere attention and energies—but often we forget to designate a soupçon of time to our own self-care. I don’t know about you, but when I continually place my needs on the back burner, I also diminish the warmth I have for the very people I strive to serve.

For many of us, it just isn’t possible to set aside an hour every day for a meal alone, a massage or a workout at the gym. For mothers of non-napping newborns, getting more than a few seconds to make a bathroom run is a real victory.

So when spare time is elusive, what can one do to steer some kindness in one’s own direction?

In general, we humans can survive for about three weeks without food and three days without water. When it comes to living without breath? We got about three minutes.

Breath is the nurturing force that is life. Observing that force seems like a worthy act.

What if we were to take a few moments a handful of times a week to sit upright on a firm chair or bench, with feet planted, and witness the rise and fall of breath?

  1. Inhaling four counts
  2. Pausing four counts
  3. Exhaling four counts
  4. Pausing four counts

When I do this, I discover that the moments of suspension are as significant as the respiration itself. The pause between each end of the breath becomes a gentle suggestion to search for pauses in my thoughts, in my words and in my actions.

And now, a variation on Vrksasana, also known as Tree Pose:

  1. Stand barefoot on firm ground.
  2. Bend one heel in toward your buttock and grab hold of the pinky toe side of that foot.
  3. If you’re flexible, place your wrist on the toes and fingertips on the ankle. Elbow bends behind you.
  4. Your free arm rests on the thigh of your standing leg.
  5. Keep the knees close to one another.
  6. Gaze is eye level, far out beyond yourself.
  7. Now extend the free arm parallel to the earth and gaze to the middle finger on that hand.
  8. Float the hand toward the ceiling and let the eyes follow.
  9. Remain for as many breaths as you’d like.
  10. Retrace your steps and switch sides.
  11. Added challenge: Stand on a folded up blanket or yoga mat.
  12. Double challenge: Float the eyes shut.

Taking on the shape of a tree demands that we root to rise. Anchor to ascend. Also, when the sole of a single foot is your base, there’s little room for the mind to mull over past and future events. To maintain balance one must be present.

Little by little. Bit by bit. Tiny but continued demonstrations of self-care keep me kind to myself and others. I hope you find this to be true for yourself.


Having grown up in a Michigan household with two-pack-a-day smoking parents, Rachel Parker and her lungs are grateful for the 20 years of yoga she’s practiced with many talented and compassionate teachers both here and in NYC. Rachel is a lousy self-promoter but does have a website: