In my last article, I wrote about standing wide-angle pose and being open to change (TT, Aug. 19). This week’s featured pose is an excellent transition from standing wide angle, and to move forward from opening.
Once we have become open, both in our bodies and to the changes that life brings, we begin to develop power. We can create strength in our muscles and in our spirits, strength that comes from the inside out, to allow us to face the world with courage and integrity.
This beautiful strengthening pose is called supta baddha konasana, or goddess pose. The shape of this pose honors one of the most powerful symbols of human strength: the birthing woman. It moves from the open flexibility of wide angle to develop the power of the thighs and lower body. The pose develops the major muscle groups of the body while celebrating womankind and the awesome force of life.
Begin by standing in wide-angle pose or prasarita padottanasana. Allow your legs to be as far apart as you feel comfortable, with the weight of the lower body on the outer edges of your feet. Rotate both feet outward so they are at a 45-degree angle from your body. As you inhale, raise both arms above your head with a lengthened spine. As you exhale, bend your arms at the elbows, palms facing forward and shoulders rolled away from your ears, shoulder blades pressing together. Inhale deeply, lifting your chest and heart toward the sky.
On your next exhale, press your ribs together with a strong abdomen and bend the knees to come into a deep squatting position. Ensure that your gluteal muscles are strong and engaged, tucking up under the torso. Take several deep breaths, with each inhale lifting the heart upward and with each exhale deepening the squat slightly. Feel the engagement of your thighs and gluteals, and ensure that each muscle in your body, from fingertips to belly to toes, is working to maintain the position.
While breathing deeply into the pose, bring your awareness to the power and strength of your body, and take a moment to sit in deep appreciation of your abilities. Bring your gratitude to generations of women, true goddesses, who have given life over the course of time. When you are ready, inhale slowly, straightening your legs and lifting your arms up to the sky. Repeat as many times as you like, alternating with wide-angle pose to stretch the hamstrings and lower back.
Development of power and strength follows the growth of openness and the willingness to accept change, in our bodies and in our hearts. Strengthening of muscles can happen only when the body is open and ready, just as the strengthening of inner selves can occur only when we have opened our minds and spirits to change and to love. The transition of standing wide-angle pose to goddess pose reminds us of this truth.
Enjoy your practice, and remember to breathe.
Jennifer McLennan is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor who has practiced in India, Canada and Costa Rica. She is currently a private yoga teacher in the beach community of Santa Teresa, on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.