I’ve been out and about in my local area over the past week or so, due to the school holidays. We’ve had a few sunny days – at last! – but also, a lot of rain. The rain has had its required effect, however, of bringing out the lush greenness of the woods around the corner of Yorkshire I live in.
I feel truly blessed to live in the greenest city of the UK. Sheffield is estimated to have over two million trees, more trees per person than any other city in Europe, and Yorkshire is one of the greenest counties in England.
So you don’t have far to walk to encounter an abundance of trees!
Our trees bring huge benefits, especially for city dwellers, from filtering fine air particles to reduce pollution, providing shelter from harmful UV rays (when we get enough sun to demand it, of course!), to mental health benefits, whereby simply staring at pictures of trees have been shown to improve mood.
Put simply, we couldn’t live and breathe without them. Yet, we often take them for granted. Even though I profess to love the greenery around me, I realised recently that when my kids asked the names of common trees just down the street, I wasn’t sure. Sure, I could recall the more obvious ones – the willows and horse chestnuts maybe – but I really wasn’t sure of the rest.
So I invested in a little pocket tree book. Now, when I go on my morning walk, I carry this little fact book in my pocket, so I can stop and find out the names of the trees I’m walking by. At first, I did feel a little bit childish, but soon, as I began to start realising which trees were related to which other trees, and their histories, I forgot about that.
But the other thing this has brought me is a sense of mindfulness. As I ponder the origin of a particular tree, examining one of its leaves, the way the catkins hang, the thickness and texture of the trunk, I slow down. I contemplate. I breathe.
I’m learning to appreciate the wonderful nature around me, and in so doing, I’m learning to really notice more.
So obviously, this week’s pose has to be Tree Pose! Tree is one of my all-time favourite poses, as it allows us to feel at one with nature; graceful and contemplative.
The Pose: Standing as straight as possible, place your right foot flat on the floor and raise the sole of your left foot to rest somewhere on the inside of the right leg. (Note: don’t put the foot on the knee joint, as this can cause injury). It isn’t important how high the foot rests – the ankle or calf is fine – it is more important to feel the left thigh opening outwards. When you have the foot in a comfortable position, find a spot on the floor or wall in front of you and concentrate on it, bringing your hands to prayer in front of your heart. If you wish, you can keep your hands in this position, or raise them above your head, even opening the hands out into ‘branches’ to help you keep balance.
Now smile! Enjoy the feeling of being a tree, and the renewed balance it restores when you plant your left foot back on the floor to join the right. Repeat on the other side.
I hope you get a chance to get out and hug a tree near you sometime soon!
Until next time,