Active Tree Pose: Hip Stability & Balance

Today I’ll be breaking down another great pose for hip stability, Active Tree.

Chances are you have taken Tree Pose before, it’s a great pose for single leg balance, plus it’s a very aesthetically pleasing pose of choice for many on Instagram.


Real quick explanation of the Biomechanics involved in Active Tree:

Active Tree is all about Active Range of Motion, which is better at engaging your gluteal muscles and hip stabilizers.  The intention of this pose is to engage your hip stabilizers, “Deep 6” or Rotator Cuff of your Hip (or “Butt-tator Cuff”), to better your balance in other standing postures.

In a typical Tree Pose, most yogis lift their foot up to their groins with their hands.  This is Passive Range of Motion, and actually turns off a lot of the hip stabilizers because that’s what allows you place your foot higher. The result is a pose that looks pretty, but emphasizes disengagement in the muscles of the hip.

The only difference between Active Tree and Passive “Grab Your Foot” Tree is through one simple cue that changes the pose entirely:  

“Without touching your foot, lift your foot as high as you can onto your standing leg”


You’ll notice right away that the lifted leg butt is much more engaged, plus you may even feel a greater opening in the front of the hip on the lifted leg.

If you happened to land on your knee, guess what? You’re totally fine.

It’s a common yoga myth that you shouldn’t place your foot on your knee.  

If it wasn’t okay, why would Doctors have a test named “Stork Test” that tells you to place you lifted leg on your standing leg knee?


Check out the link above to see the actual instructions:

The athlete lifts the right leg and places the sole of the right foot against the side of the left kneecap


Granted if you have a knee injury or it hurts to place your foot against your knee, don’t do that!  

For most people, putting your foot on your knee is pretty safe, and actually may give it some healthy perpendicular stress.  Plus, you’re much more active in the lifted leg, and therefore the pressure you apply on your standing leg is more controlled and less intense than a normal tree.

Final note on the knee:

If your knee was compromised to the point where you shouldn’t put your other foot on it, would you really be standing on one leg?

The answer is a definite no!  Use your brain here, this poor person would probably collapse the moment they tried to take a step down off a curb or stairs because their knee is so unstable.

Common Faults in Active Tree:

Hip Hike:

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0910.This one is easily fixed by starting off with your hands on your hips to assure they stay level.  Hiking the hip is a form of “aesthetic cheating” because you’re trying to get your foot as high as possible, without the proper usage of the gluteal muscles.  Why are you trying to get your foot so high?  The intention is to be active in the gluteal muscles and hip stabilizers, instead of trying to look pretty with your foot as high as you can get it to your groin.


Excess Shakiness/Instability:

If it’s too hard to maintain your balance, bring your lifted foot lower down your leg or on your ankle.  It’s important to note that the standing leg should be stable and capable of supporting you before you start doing crazy things with your lifted leg.

Benefits & Variants:

Feel free to scrap your typical lift-your-leg-with-your-hands-and-look-pretty-tree and use this instead.  It’s honestly much better for your body because it’s much more engaging of some very important muscles.

It’s also great prep for any standing and balancing postures.  The engagement and awareness of the hip stabilizers has some very profound benefits to balance.

Turn it into a Dynamic Warm Up: I like to make this a breath to movement activity.  On the inhales draw your heel up onto your lifted leg, on the exhales lower your heel back down and touch the ground.  On the 3rd one is usually when I hold the foot at the highest point accessible (without hip hike).

Remember that the practice of Yoga is about awareness and feeling good in the body you are currently in, not how cool you look in each pose.  So stay active, keep engaged, and feel beautiful from the deepest butt muscles out 😉

For more on Hip Stabilization and the benefits of it check out: Get to Know Your Butt

For another pose with a similar intention of engaging the Deep Hip Stabilizers: Yoga Pose Breakdown: Active Pigeon

Healthy butt =healthy life,


-Dr. YG

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