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Balancing act: One-legged prayer poses

May 13, 2008
In many Indian mythological stories, the extent and depth of tapas or austerity practices are often expressed pictorially and poetically by the practitioner standing on one leg. Even today, the purity and classic grace of yoga is often expressed by this pose, which can be rather challenging for beginners. This is called one-legged prayer pose or eka pada pranamasana (also called vrkasana or the tree pose). Advanced practitioners often challenge themselves by attempting variations or extending the duration of the pose. The challenge can be carried further by attempting it with closed eyes. There are also several variations of this pose that further deepen its impact.

This pose can be used to measure or discover your emotional states. Even advanced practitioners realise when the mind is agitated, balancing in this pose becomes difficult. Beginners also learn an intriguing aspect of themselves: that the left and right side of the body may not co-operate equally. In such balancers, this happens not only because most of us are physically misaligned, but also because of disharmony between the left and the right brain hemispheres. Such poses develop a dialogue between these two sides of the brain (and also of our personalities), so our creative and logical sides get together to help us lead our lives in a state of equilibrium.

Balancers like the one-legged prayer pose/tree pose have several benefits. They help remove negative or painful emotional sides to us: like shyness, anger or anxiety by developing mental poise. The body's misalignments are adjusted, and posture is improved. Limbs become strong, and the spine is better aligned. It is also said to improve memory.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Kerala, leads you through four mudras that'll help keep you cool this summer.

Text: Shameem Akthar
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at

Harmony Foundation recently published Shameem Akthar's book, Yoga for Silvers. To place an order, please write to:

(This article only attempts to enthuse readers towards yoga practice and complement your existing practice. Yoga is best learnt under the personal guidance of a teacher.)
Also read: Yoga relief for the summer heat!


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