Urdhva Vrikshasana

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Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana
Jan 11 surya asanas 002 - Urdhva Vrikshasana Straight.JPG
Woman performing Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana from the front
English name(s)Upward Tree Position
Sanskritऊर्ध्व वृक्षासन / Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana
Meaningūrdhva: "upwards"
vṛkṣa: "tree"
āsana: "posture"
Key Points
dṛṣṭi (eye focus)अङ्गूष्ठमध्ये दृष्टि / Aṅguṣṭhamadhye dṛṣṭi (to thumbs)
Asana typeStanding Asanas
Iyengar difficulty[1]1 star
Base asanaTāḍāsana/Samasthitiḥ
Effects summaryHelps plantar fasciitis, stretches thoracic cavity (temporarlity increases lung capacity), increases "heat" in the body (countering excess kapha), can affect breathing mechanics to make diaphragmatic breathing come more naturally.
Styles of YogaYoga Krama, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Hatha Yoga
Location in Ashtanga Vinyasa seriesSūrya Namaskāra and interspersed throughout all series
upward salute
upward salute
upward salute
upward salute - hands shoulder width apart

Urdhva Vrikshasana (IPA: [uːrd̪ʱʋɐʋr̩kʂɑːsɐnɐ]; Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व वृक्षासन;[2] IAST: Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana) is an asana. An English translation for this asana is "Upward Tree Position".[2] In Ashtanga Yoga it is the first asana of Surya Namaskara.[3][4] In some instances this asana may also be called Tadasana, depending on the practitioner's yoga style and lineage.

This asana or its variations may also be known a Urdhva Hastasana[5] (IAST: Ūrdhva Hāstāsana; Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व हास्तासन; IPA: [uːrdʰʋɐ hɐːstɐːsɐna]), meaning "Upward Hands Pose".


This compound noun phrase comes from Sanskrit: urdhva (Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व, Sanskrit: ūrdhva) meaning "up, upwards";[6] vriksha (Sanskrit: वृक्ष, Sanskrit: vṛkṣa) meaning "tree, especially with visible blossoms or fruits";[7] and asana (Sanskrit: आसन, Sanskrit: Āsana) meaning "pose".[8]

This asana or variations of it may also be called Ūrdhva Hāstāsana. From Sanskrit: urdhva (Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व, Sanskrit: ūrdhva) meaning "up, upwards";[6] hasta (Sanskrit: हास्त, Sanskrit: hāsta) meaning "formed with the hands";[9] asana (Sanskrit: आसन, Sanskrit: Āsana) meaning "pose".[8]

In some instances this asana may also be called Tadasana (meaning "mountain pose"), depending on the practitioner's yoga style and lineage.


Samasthitiḥ serves as a base for Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana. The legs remain unchanged, however the arms and gaze are upward.


In yoga, the dṛṣṭi the location of the gaze.

The dṛṣṭi for Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana is the Aṅguṣṭhamadhye dṛṣṭi (thumbs).[10]


Mūla Bandha and Uḍḍiyāna Bandha are active. As the head is raised, the Jālandhara bandha is not engaged. [11]


In some instances this asana may also be called Tadasana (meaning "mountain pose"), depending on the practitioner's yoga style and lineage.

The vanilla Vrikshasana has many similarities as well.[12]

Urdhva Hastasana[edit]

Man performing Ūrdhva Hāstāsana from the front

Ūrdhva Hāstāsana (also known as "upwards hands pose" or "upward salute") is a similar asana wherein the hands are not touching and the gaze is forward. .[5]

It can also be performed with the thumbs interlocked.[5]


A belt can be used to improve the stretch. A loop is made that is around shoulder width (or slightly less) and the arms are raised to press outward on the belt. The pressure is initiated with the arms at shoulder height, then the shoulders are "softened" and brought downward, back into position, before raising the arms up above the head to the full asana. This is usually performed with the hands apart, as the pressure exerted by the arms is outward. This technique can be especially helpful for raised arm inversions.[5]

Yoga styles and context[edit]

In some styles of yoga leaning backward may be considered a variation of Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana and be substituted for it in Surya Namaskara vinyasas.[13]

Surya Namaskara[edit]

In Surya Namaskara, Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana is an important part of many styles of yoga, particularly Ashtanga Yoga, and is the first vinyasa of the series (following the starting asana, samasthitih).[14]

Ashtanga Yoga[edit]

In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana appears as part of full vinyasas throughout the practice.[15]

Vinyasa Krama Yoga[edit]

In Vinyasa Krama Yoga, Tāḍāsana is performed on the toes with the arms raised, and is similar to Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana, except that the gaze is not raised, and the hands interlock. Various standing vinyasas from Vinyasa Krama Yoga also include flat footed standing position with the arms raised and fingers interlocked (Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana[16]). [17]

Key aspects[edit]

As with most asanas, when entering into Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana, distal body parts are best arranged first, progressively adjusting in-wards and putting proximal body parts in place last.[18]

Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some key aspects are similar, while others differ.

Key aspects in common with Samasthitiḥ[edit]

  • Feet are together or if apart, then the heels and big toes are in one line pointing straight forward.[19][20]
  • Feet are stretched on the floor, including metatarsals and each individual toe.[19]
  • Feet "ground" primarily through the three points which make up the foot's three arches: the calcaneal tuberosity (heel), the base of the first metatarsal (the big toe "knuckle"), and the base of the fifth metatarsal (little toe "knuckle"). [21] The weight is not placed on the inside edge of the feet (which would negatively affect posture throughout the body.)[22]
  • Knees are tightened (in effect, the knee caps pulled up) and facing forward.[19][20]
  • Keeping the balls of the feet grounded, and activating muscles to separate the soles of the feet (which are not allowed to move because of friction with the mat), may help internally rotate the thighs, turn the femurs inward and keep the kneecaps facing forward. [23]
  • Hips and buttocks (upper thigh muscles) are contracted (upwards). [19]
  • Weight is distributed evenly between heels and toes, with the pelvis centered and body in-line.[19] The pelvis is centered when the tendons which connect the sartorius and rectus femoris muscles to the pelvis is halfway between being pulled tight, and relaxed. [24]
  • Weight is distributed evenly between the two hips (equally between the two legs/feet), making the left and right hips level with each other.[24]
  • Pelvis exhibits neutral tilt (neither tilted forward nor backwards). Usually this means the pubic symphysis and anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) are in one vertical plane, neither in front of the other. [24]
  • There is a moderate inward curve the lower back due to the neutral pelvic tilt.[24]
  • The chest is broad.[25]
  • The shoulders are rolled back[25] (with the head of the humerus centered in the joint), and shoulder blades pulled down the back and inwards[25] (not "winging, but not "pinched" together).[26] The shoulders may be "looped" (lifted slightly, then brought back and down) to achieve this.[27][28]

Key aspects for asanas with arms raised[edit]


Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some effects are similar. For instance:

  • The asana strengthens the abdomen and the legs.
  • It may help relieve sciatica and reduce flat feet.[citation needed]
  • It helps plantar fasciitis and heel spurs by improving the strength of deeper foot muscles which support your foot, and reducing the load on the less suited plantar fascia. [21]

Given the upward position of the arms and neck, there are additional effects:

  • The thoracic cavity and rib structures including the intercostal muscles are stretched and the thoracic cavity expanded increasing lung capacity. [32][33]
  • Raising the arms in standing asanas like Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana and its variations “increases the heat created by the asanas, and is beneficial for [reducing excess] kapha”[34]
  • Raising the arms makes diaphragmatic breathing come more naturally, restricting thoracic significantly, and abdominal breathing only slightly. [35]


Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some cautions are similar including:

  • Due to the effects of standing, prolonged practice of a standing asana like Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana should be done with caution by those who suffer from headaches, insomnia, or low blood pressure.[36]
  • It is advised to maintain a degree of muscle tension in this asana. Moderate tension in the thighs and hips can help develop positive habits and can increase the musculature in those areas which can help prevent injury. Additionally maintaining a degree of tension requires awareness, which can help prevent injury itself. This habit can be beneficial throughout yoga practice.[37]
  • Hyper extension of the knee can compresses the knee joint and can strain the medial meniscus, causing knee problems.[38]
  • Since the feet serve as a foundation for the rest of the body in this and other standing asanas, the position of the feet is of high importance. One change in the position of your feet affects posture throughout your body. [39]

Scapulo-humeral rhythm of arm raising[edit]

Given the commonality of raising the arms, the complexity of the motion may be overlooked. In fact, the scapulo-humeral rhythm of the motion is important to avoid a repetitive motion induced shoulder injury.[30]

If the humerus is in the neutral position (unrotated) when the supraspinatus muscle contracts, the supraspinatus tendon can be sandwiched between the acromion (bone) and greater tubricle of the humerus (bone) leading to a common rotator cuff injury: an inflamed, frayed, or torn supraspinatus tendon.[30] Prevention is simply a matter of:

  1. Initiating the movement with an external rotation of the arm (thumb moving outward). This movement is performed primarily by the infraspinatus and teres minor.[30]
  2. "Cinching down" the humerus to create space between the acromion and humerus. The cinching action can be aided by the subscapularis muscle, though its relaxation is required to accomplish the arms initial outward rotation. [30]

While the critical time to initiation these forces is before the arm raise begins, both the rotation and the downward engagement are engaged for the duration of the arm raise.[30]

Spinal extension[edit]

The role of the latimus dorsi is subtle, as "tight latissimus dorsi can pull the spine into too much of a lumbar curve". Further, "if the latissimus dorsi are used to do the spinal extension [...], they will interfere with the lifting and lateral rotation of the arms".[40]


Thought there are differences between individuals, this is a general anatomical description of the body in Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana.

As an upright standing asana:

  • The curves of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical exhibit mild axial extension.
  • The erector spinae and quadratus lumborum lift and straighten the spine.[41][42]
  • A downward release exists in the following parts of the body: the shoulder blades (supported by the rib cage), the tailbone, and in the foot at the heel (Calcaneus), and the first and fifth metatarsals (the three of which serve as primary contact points with the ground). The shoulders should not be thrown back, but simply relaxed neutrally.[39]

Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some anatomy points are similar. The following apply primarily to the lower portion of the body being similar in position in Samasthitiḥ:

Anatomical states for asanas with arms raised above the head[edit]

The following anatomical description applies to asanas which have the arms raised above the head:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kaminoff 2007, p. 35.
  2. ^ a b c Steiner 2012, p. Urdhva Vrikshasana.
  3. ^ Maehle 2011, 875-900.
  4. ^ Jois 2010, 1448-1450.
  5. ^ a b c d e Fitz-Simon 2010, p. Urdhva Hastasana.
  6. ^ a b Monier-Williams 1964, p. 222.
  7. ^ Monier-Williams 1964, p. 1008.
  8. ^ a b Monier-Williams 1964, p. 159.
  9. ^ Monier-Williams 1964, p. 1296.
  10. ^ Steiner 2012, p. Surya Namaskara B.
  11. ^ a b Ramaswami 2005, p. 4.
  12. ^ Fitz-Simon 2010, p. Vrikshasana.
  13. ^ a b Devananda 2011, p. 68.
  14. ^ Jois 2010, 1452.
  15. ^ Maehle 2011, 633, 758-759.
  16. ^ Fitz-Simon 2010, p. Urdhva Baddhaguliyasana.
  17. ^ Ramaswami 2005, p. 1-34.
  18. ^ Coulter 2001, p. 229, 233, 236, 370, 543.
  19. ^ a b c d e Iyengar 2005, p. 41.
  20. ^ a b Cole 2004, p. 1.
  21. ^ a b Karminoff 2007, p. 36.
  22. ^ Maehle 2011, 868-869.
  23. ^ a b Long 2010, p. 33.
  24. ^ a b c d Cole 2004, p. 2.
  25. ^ a b c Fitz-Simon 2010, p. Standing Poses: Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
  26. ^ Guthrie 2012, p. "Check Your Alignment" Section.
  27. ^ Maehle 2011, 814.
  28. ^ Maehle 2011, 897.
  29. ^ Maehle 2011, 891-892.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g Cole 2004.
  31. ^ a b Maehle 2011, 908.
  32. ^ a b Kaminoff 2007, p. 25-26.
  33. ^ a b Coulter 2001, p. 102.
  34. ^ Mccall 2007, 5428.
  35. ^ a b Coulter 2001, p. 234.
  36. ^ Kaminoff 2007, p. 39.
  37. ^ Coulter 2001, p. 229.
  38. ^ Mccall 2007, 9055-9056.
  39. ^ a b c d e f Coulter 2001, p. 230.
  40. ^ a b c d Kaminoff 2007, p. 54-57.
  41. ^ Long 2006, p. 132.
  42. ^ a b Long 2010, p. 32.
  43. ^ Long & Macivor 2006, p. 09.
  44. ^ a b Long & Macivor 2009, p. 61.