Getting Spatial D on with Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Balances are pretty awesome poses. There’s a lot we can learn from them and they remind us how remarkable our evolutionary adaptation of bipedalism is (hey Dan Lieberman & SLS16).  Imagine moving from four points of contact to two points. I mean, what mammals truly only have two? Kangaroos cheat and get three points (their tail) and I can only really think of birds (which aren’t mammals…right). Talking bear maybe?

As a result, we’ve developed three sweet systems to establish our balance (most of us think we’ve got only 5 senses, but in actuality, we’ve got at least seven. Don’t worry I was surprised too):

1) The visual system

2) The vestibular system: works with the inner ear to tell us where our head is in space – you can test this out by holding your finger in front of you and moving your head back and forth while keeping focus on the finger. The finger remains clear because the vestibular system maintained awareness about your head’s position while sending information about the finger. Then try keeping your head still and move your finger back and forth while keeping your head still and moving your eyes only. This induces motion sickness and blurriness because your vestibular and visual perceptions don’t match up. Also, when you do flips or spin around a lot then suddenly stop, the fluid in your vestibular system is still flowing in the direction you were moving in, which is why you feel dizzy and fall flat on your face when you play a game of drunk dizzybat.

3) The proprioceptive system: composed of the sensory nervous system that sends information about the lengths of muscles and tendons in the body back to the central nervous system to allow the brain to understand where the body is in space.

An article in The Scientific American on the Aviator’s Dilemma speaks to the most common cause of fatality (80% !!) in the air force: “spatial D“. “Spatial Disorientation” is when there is sensory degradation and perceptual illusions, thus throwing the pilot out of balance. An example of this would be when pilots are flying in almost complete darkness due to oil explosions and have to learn to untrust their senses. The three senses are in conflict with one another. In this example, the visual compromised and if the pilot is spinning the vestibular is also compromised too.

So back to balances. I’m introducing one of my favorite poses in yoga, Tree Pose. Also known as Vrksasana. You can check here for a compilation of poses and information (I’ll keep slowly adding to my library of knowledge). Here is my doodle explaining the pose (ideally you want to start standing in Tadasana/Mountain Pose then lift one leg up and then go into any variation you feel like. You can mix in other balances if you want or just come back to standing.) This pose is incredible for developing your sense of balance (via the three systems) and also retraining your muscle & neuron firing patterns. And developing your core. And extending your spine. I could go on forever. Plus, you’re a tree. When do you ever get to be a tree?


More Pilot-related challenges needed?

1. Close your eyes. See what happens, play.You’re flying in the dark.

2. Turn your neck side to side. Then hold a finger out in front of you and play with keeping the head still but following the finger here. Vestibular system time!

3. Sway your arms back and forth if they’re extended above you. Can you stay balanced and grounded?

4. Go play a flying game (Scientific American recommends the helicopter copter) game Apache on your Xbox with your eyes closed

Jayjayyogis doing some vrksasanas by the river.

Daily Nutritional Facts

Made myself a vegan quesadilla with my little sis Anisa! Used chorizo seitan, kale, avocado, salsa, some rosemary garlic powder, and rice American cheese. I was worried the rice cheese wouldn’t melt because it’s made of rice but it totally did!


I based it off of this recipe and what I learned is you can totally change all the ratios to your liking (the texture and taste at that exact moment is what you’ll get anyways!) and change up the ingredients a LOT. That’s the beauty of it. The key point is to refrigerate for 30-40 minutes, and then you can take it around with you and make new friends! (or just please the ones you have already) The other main point is dates. So crucial to manifestation of these deadly delicious cookies. Filled with awesome minerals and vitamins, acting as a laxative (FIBER!) and a sleep-inducer, and also embodies antioxidants known as tannins that are anti-inflammatory, anti-infective, and anti-hemorrhagic.

Ingredients (that I used once and is not really exact): 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4-1/2 cup cocoa powder, 8-10 dates, 1-2 tablespoons of honey, vegan dark chocolate chips, 1/3 cup coconut flakes, dash of water if needed (keep leftover date water), 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter if you want a nuttier flavor

1. Soak the dates for 15-20 minutes in water

2. Use a food processor to grind up the nuts and seeds (these can be super varied) into a powder.

3. If you have a strong food processor, mix in all the other ingredients as well in parts (except the nuts), blending it all into a smooth “dough”. Personally, I don’t have a great blender so I only make the nut/seed powder and hand mix the rest of the ingredients.

4. Throw in the chips and mix. Add whatever else you feel like.

5. Shape into whatever shapes you desire and place in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

NOTICE: At 8 AM tomorrow my friend and I will be leading a yoga/meditation class together at 8 AM in Cambridge Commons (if you’re scared of getting lost, email me at and I’ll give you my number) Yoga by the River: I will also offer a more flowing, faster paced Vinyasa flow class at 5:30 PM. Mats, towels, grass are all okay! Meeting outside Winthrop house on the street at 5:20 and will walk over to set up by the river at 5:25. Check here for schedule.

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Filed under postures, recipe, senses, yoga

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