Pose of the Month:
By Chrisandra Fox Walker
This month’s Goddess Pose honors the sacred feminine through embracing wholeness and the many life-giving aspects of the divine.
Goddess Pose, also called Victory Squat and Utkata Konasana (Fierce Angle Pose) strengthens the lower body, activates the core, releases the breath in the abdomen and helps to integrate the upper and lower energy centers of the body.
While you will most certainly increase strength and will in this asana, one of the sweet benefits of Goddess Pose is in learning to balance and integrate the pairs of opposites – will and surrender, strength and softness, activity and receptivity – which can inspire growth toward wholeness in your entire being.
The Hatha yoga tradition was born of Tantric traditions, which celebrate the divine feminine through the forms of Shakti. In Tantra, Shakti is the cosmic feminine force, the creative, dynamic power of Pure Consciousness that complements Shiva, the cosmic masculine principle of Pure Consciousness. [i]
We can experience this power by unfolding several of the many divine forms of the feminine energy, or the Goddesses within, while practicing Goddess Pose.
Position your feet one leg’s distance apart. Turn your heels in and your toes out toward 45°. You’ll bend your knees in the direction of your toes and squat, lowering your pelvis down. You’ll have more stability and balance if you keep your buttocks above your knees rather than squatting all the way to the level of your knees. Raise your arms out to the sides, bend your elbows and turn your palms to face out.
Spread your toes and root through the four corners of your feet. Bend your knees just until you feel the flow of gravity descend through your legs, creating grounding throughout your entire body. Feel your legs growing stronger and more stable; observe your connection to the life-giving, sustaining quality of Mother Earth and all of Nature, or the Divine Feminine in the form of Prakriti.
Draw your tailbone slightly toward your pubis to maintain length in your spine, and let your attention become more fully present in your core. On your exhalations, gently lift your low belly and pelvic floor as you float your navel to your spine. If you are pregnant, create light tone through your abdominals, embracing your baby and the life force that is growing within your body.
With strength in your legs and energy moving through the core of your body, receive the force of Kali, or the fierce protection of the eternal Mother. Among many things, Kali (kala or time) represents the pure power of existence and the power of spiritual insight that cuts through all negativity, illusion and duality. She exists beyond time and space, and is responsible for all of life, from conception to death and beyond.
When we are established in our core, both physically and energetically – when the prana flows through the central channel of the spine – we can experience the quality of nirodha, the merging or dissolution into the Absolute, the supreme intelligence of the Universe that is unending and undying. In more relative terms, nirodha is that ability to bring the mind back to a state of Witnessing, beyond its limiting identifications to the source of our being, to a state of Awareness and pure potential.[ii]
As you tune into this power to endure and integrate the sensations, thoughts and feelings arising, notice the part of you that fiercely cuts through the tendency to want to give up, change position, or tense up. Relax the muscles of your face, continue to feel the downward flow of energy in your body, the upward rising energy in your spine and the knitting or weaving of these opposites at your navel center.
Draw your shoulder blades in lightly and feel the expanse of your ribcage, chest, collarbones and belly. Soften your palms and the soles of your feet, relax your jaw and experience the nourishing radiance of Lakshmi, the mother goddess form of wealth, prosperity, beauty and fertility. Allow your mind and belly to relax, receive this cooling and soothing energy as though bathing in the light of the full moon. Allow for a quality of ease in your breath and throughout your entire being.
Lengthen up through your crown, draw your chin in towards your throat and bring your palms together just above your head.
Sarasvati, “essence of self” or “she who flows”, is the river goddess of wisdom, knowledge, music, education and the arts. Among many things, Sarasvati helps us embody the divine knowledge that brings wisdom and harmony into the world. She is the power of remembering your essential self.
Soften the palms of your two hands and feel the warmth radiating between them. Close your eyes, soften your forehead and draw your awareness into the midbrain, sensing a presence of energy. Allow this presence to grow, like a pearl of light and rest your mind in this illuminated consciousness, letting it spread throughout your entire being.
Dancing with the Goddesses
Exhale, straighten your legs and release your arms down to your sides. Inhale, bend your knees, sweep your arms out to the sides and up overhead, bringing the palms together. Bend your elbows as you lower your hands to the space above your head. Again, exhale, straighten your legs and release your arms back to your sides. Inhale, bend your knees, sweep your arms out into a wide embrace, bringing the palms together overhead. Pause after your inhalation as you lower your hands above your head. Exhale, release the arms back to your sides.
Continue these movements, pausing for a moment at the very top of the inhalation and dissolving the mind into that quality of fullness, feeling your whole being alive and present. Then, slowly release and return your arms to your sides.
Chrisandra leads dances with the goddesses in 4 weekly classes at Yoga Tree. Click here for her schedule. She leads the Heart of Renewal Retreats (register here for the 5th annual Memorial Day Weekend Retreat) and is a core teacher in the 200-hour Teacher Training at Yoga Tree.