The one thing I loved about living in the South West London/Surrey area was its leafy green vibe. Richmond and Bushey Parks were my favourite places to spend an afternoon. Always finding different parts and different trees to connect with. When I moved back to Plymouth it was the one thing I thought I would be deprived of. However I was surprised, there were more trees here than I remembered. So when the corrupt city council committed that awful atrocity back in March 2023, I was heartbroken – along with so many others.
One of the ladies who comes to my classes is involved with the organisation trying to save the trees and the ongoing legal battle in the aftermath of that horrendous crime against nature. When she told me about the Plymouth Urban Tree Festival and asked me to teach a Tree themed Yoga class on the opening day, this Plymouth Yoga Teacher jumped at the chance!
As I sat to contemplate the theme of “Tree Yoga” I was overcome by everything that came up. We have so much in common with trees and their symbology and so much to thank them for.
Tree symbology pops up in our everyday lives – The Tree of Life features in many different religions and mythologies as a symbol of wisdom, strength and our interconnectedness to all things. It represents the spiritual path to enlightenment from the muddy depths of the root system to the lofty heights of the leaves reaching the light of the sun.
The family tree is symbolic of how as a family we all share the same roots, no matter what different paths we branch off on. We can think about this in relation to our own families or the family of our shared humanity.
Trees teach us about the importance of creating a strong foundation in our lives, how when we connect with our roots and operate from a grounded energy, we can rise up and succeed in whatever we are trying to do. They ask us to seek stability, ease and grace when we embody their energy.
We have a symbiotic relationship with trees. We exhale carbon dioxide which they take in, and in turn they give us the oxygen we breathe. They provide us with shelter, support, shade and food. It is our job to do all we can to protect them.
Tree anatomy permeates our language – to be “rooted” in something means to be entrenched in or originating from, we might “branch” off in many directions or take a “leaf” out of someone else’s book.
When the day of the class arrived the sun was shining! It was silent disco style so we were wearing headphones which transmitted my voice and the music to the participants. I was apprehensive about the addition of this tech to the class but it worked so well, everyone was so in the zone and the feedback I received was that it really helped them connect more inwards, given that we were practicing in a very public space.
At the start of the class everyone was invited to think of a particular tree energy type they wished to embody, such as being strong, stable or nourished. Or to dedicate the energy generated by their practice to the love, protection and gratitude for our local trees. We started low to the ground, representative of connecting to the earth, our foundation and built up from there. We gave thanks for the light from the sun during our salutations and into standing poses where we explored the concept of rooting down to rise up. Of course there was Tree Pose and a chance to play with some different variations and flow to challenge our balance. Then we returned to the Earth and sealed the practice with a breathing exercise and visualisation of receiving in oxygen from the trees as we inhale and offering our exhale back to the tree in return.
Trees remind us of our connection to the Earth. Seeing ourselves as part of nature rather than separate from it can inspire us to want to preserve the natural world rather than destroy it. When we can align our inner world with the outer environment, we become more balanced, better, and more caring human beings.
Tree, gather up my thoughts
like the clouds in your branches.
Draw up my soul
like the waters in your root.
In the arteries of your trunk
bring me together.
Through your leaves
breathe out the sky.
Poem “Breath” by J. Daniel Beaudry