When tasked to create a Vinyasa Flow for my Yoga Teacher Assessment Exam, the immediate thought that came to mind was that of the Tree of Life.
I designed an hour class around the Tree of Life using the following opening meditation about trees to set the tone:
Sit comfortably and bring your hands to heart center. Close your eyes and listen to your breathe. Back erect, lengthening the neck, chin level, shoulders relaxed, bring your belly to the spine. Inhale deeply and gently. Exhale everything that does not serve you. Inhale gratitude and exhale everything that you do not need. Your sitting bones are planted deeply into the ground like the roots of a tree. Be a tree. The tree of life. Your roots run deeply into the earth. You are strong, tall, beautiful and well-balanced. You have everything you need to grow.
I incorporated the use of the Tree Pose (Vrikshanana) as my main asana throughout the flow and used appropriate quotes about trees whilst holding a particular pose for five or more breaths. “Make like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” by Rumi is an example used for visualization during moments where eyes were closed, focus was being given to the breath and a pose such as Tree Pose was held static.
This flow was designed to induce an invigorating feeling whilst connecting one to the element of Earth. The background music added to the theme and extended the ambiance of nature. I opened with the lovely “On Trees” by Sam Feldt and Bloom to get the faster pace for the flow going and ended with the calming and meditative sounds of “I Am Connected” by Beautiful Chorus who sings about our roots being connected to Earth.
I also read an interesting book whilst preparing prior to design, about trees titled, “The Secret Therapy of Trees” by Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri, for further inspiration. Here is a small extract to give you a sense of what it covers:
Harness the healing energy of forest bathing and natural landscapes as our connection to nature is deeply rooted in our history of our evolution. And yet, we have less contact with green space now than ever, and our stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high. “The Secret Therapy of Trees” helps us rediscover the restorative value of our natural environment and presents the science behind green therapies like forest bathing and bioenergetic landscapes, explaining which are the most effective and how to put them into practice to achieve the best possible results.
Studies have shown that increased exposure to green space can result in a regulated heartbeat, lowered blood pressure, reduced aggressiveness, improved memory skills and cognitive function, and a healthier immune system. Just one visit to a forest can bring positive effects (hint: monoterpenes, the natural essential oils in plants, have numerous positive effects on health), and even a mindful walk through a semi natural park can alleviate physical and psychological stress.
With multiple studies backing its findings and thorough explanations for each technique, “The Secret Therapy of Trees” is a treasure trove of tips on how to harness the regenerative power of plants and reconnect with our planet’s natural spaces, bringing us health and happiness.
It also covers:
Which plants purify the environment at home and in the office. The benefits of negative ions and where to find them. How to recharge through contact with trees.
This exercise reignited my appreciation for nature and I have a renewed love of trees. This is also a great way to connect to your root chakra and reinstate a sense of belonging. It stabilizes you and has a plethora of immediate health benefits too.
Trees provide us with oxygen and that is our life force; our Prana, so do yourself a favour and go hug a tree!