Tree Pose, Renaissance Style by Zara Bielkus

We all know Leonardo da Vinci as an artist, an engineer, a sculptor, a visionary. And then there is the Leonardo da Anatomista.  Genius or not, all these talents housed in one soul is unarguably remarkable. Under the guide of a professor he created a collection of drawings of the human body, from the inside out. The precision is comparable to a modern, glossy paged text-book (of most organs…some even he got wrong: for example he could not deduce that muscle fiber can be circular rather than linear in growth pattern). Anyone lucky enough to see this collection of works knows what may first seem as grotesque images are true works of art; he not only portrayed the minutest tendon and joint in the hand, but the way in which he has done it you can almost sense the motion of that hand, its functionality, as if it could reach off the paper and draw itself.

Most significantly, the scientist inside began to push the boundaries of accepted knowledge. Until then, the scientific community touted the Liver as the central, most influential organ. Second only to the skin in its size, it is easy to understand where this thinking originated. Piece by piece the artistic master was able to conceptualize the circulatory system: from the heart you have the passages (the arteries and vessels) and the further these passages are from the center the smaller they become. He likened this system to a tree – the trunk being the heart, the limbs being the branches full of vessels and veins, and lastly the fingers and toes being the twigs full of fine capillaries.

Often in Tree Pose, Vkrsasana, the teacher may emphasize the grounding down through the feet, focusing on the “roots” of the posture, or the spreading of the fingers like “leaves” grasping for nutrients from the sun. A historic tip from the Renaissance man might help you instead open your heart to acknowledge the center of life throbbing from within.

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