Tree Pose; from a 7th century carving at Mahabalipuram, on India’s east coast, south of Chennai

Yoga history knows many acts of balance to build inner heat and mental focus–and the most prominent one is Tree Pose–called Vrikshasana in Sanskrit.

Tree Pose is like the simpler practice of holding one or both arms in the air, called Urdhva Dhana; it is described in the very old scripture called The Maitri Upanishad from the 2nd Century.

It says, “A King called Brhadratha . . . went out into the forest . . . embarking on the highest asceticism, he stood, arms held upward, gazing at the sun.”

Yogis hold both Urdhva Dhana and Vrikshasana for shocking amounts of time.

Brhadratha is said to have held Urdhva Dhana for one-thousand days—but the general prescription is to hold it for 12 years!

Figure 1 shows a different King–one whose name is a bit like “Brhadratha.”

He’s called “Bhagiratha,” and the myth about him tells us he did Tree Pose for one thousand years to persuade the gods Brahma and Shiva to bring the Ganges River to Earth. (This was before the Ganges River existed on Earth!).

Close to Bhagiratha, there’s a cat in Vrikshasana (figure 4).

Yoga philosophy scholars think he’s a figure from a familiar Indian fable about a cat pretending to be a peaceful yogi; he fools mice (seen at his feet) before he eats them!