One of the aspects of yoga I find so gratifying is shape shifting. Warrior 1 is, generally speaking, more available to men in the traditional stance where the hips are narrowed or “closed.” Many female practitioners have to find and work their way into Virabhadrasana 1 alignment, frequently taking a wider stance to allow for hip room. My own Warrior 1 has changed quite a bit over time as I’ve become more flexible, but I still find the shape is one that I approach as opposed to one that contains me.
More cognitive, less hippy, so to speak.
In contrast, Warrior II with both hips open, has more going for it for the typical female body. Yes, it’s a hard pose to nail, but widening the hips allows us to be flexible in our pelvic region, which we naturally are.
Goddess pose opens the hips, hip flexors and the arms, allowing a wide open, wall-like posture posture that is uncommon in yoga. Like a standing savasana with bent knees. There’s so much power in it—the openness, the balance challenge—distributing your weight equally between the legs and through the feet and knowing just how much to turn the toes out and bend the knees for maximum stability.
More than anything, it’s about using the breath to move the agni around, not letting it settle in the quadriceps or the lower back. And if you read my piece last week on half moon, there’s a circle to explore around this shape as well, a container for the heat you’ve created. Without it, your Goddess begins to melt here and there…
It’s a shape that usually isn’t held for very long or is combined with squats or a flowing sequence side to side, or one where the legs are straightened and bent a few times, moving on the breath.
All of this is very powerful in a practice—again, being wide open, standing strong and breathing into the quads. Try taking a mini break in Goddess in the middle of your day, like while you are cooking or before you leave the house. Stand in your space, jump your feet apart, and then, hands on the hips, hinge up to stand, open the feet between 45 and 90 degrees and bend your knees until you feel it, lift your arms and open your palms. Now lift your toes and replant them. Exhale again. Stay. Try five full breaths, then straighten the knees, take a full round of breath, re-bend and stay in it for 5 more. Powerful, eh?
Like a wall with many openings. What comes in? What goes out? Goddess. Who is she? What is she telling you?
Kathleen Kraft is a poet and yoga teacher. She was born and raised in New York City and made the move across the Hudson several years ago to Jersey City. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook Fairview Road is forthcoming in December from Finishing Line Press.