There are certain postures that feel incredibly empowering and strong, and Utkata Konaana – also known as Goddess Pose, Double Warrior and Horse Stance in Tai Chi and Qi Gong practices – is definitely one of them…. This stable, standing asana works to strengthen the legs – noticeably the thighs – and helps to open the adductors and hips at the same time. By connecting the feet firmly to the earth through pada bandha (pressing into the heel, base of the little toe and base of the big toe while lifting the inner arches of the feet), you’ll be able to access your universal core – a way of thinking and feeling that shows how our core is very much a part of the whole body, and not limited to the midsection. Although you might not exactly feel like a goddess in this posture, the asana is very much about accessing that inner godliness that arises when we make the most of our power. It’s postures like this that really do evoke a sense of being proud of the strength your body has and loving the skin you’re in right now – research into body language even shows that wide-stance, open positions like this do literally increase a sense of confidence and self-worth. New Year is a time when we begin to make resolutions, and many of them are based on changing ourselves in one way or another…. Losing weight, getting fitter, behaving differently in an attempt to ‘be better’, or making drastic changes to our lives because we’re not happy with the ones we already have…. Of course there are plenty of good new year resolutions to set, but if any of them stop you from appreciating the body you’re in and just being you, then it might be time to re-think the resolutions…. ‘I’m not good enough’ is woven into our brains from an early age; it seems we’re always chasing something that will help us be stronger, smarter, skinnier or more successful, which doesn’t aid us in the quest for actually being happy with who we are. We all know how closely the mind and body are related, so by practicing physical postures which help us tap into that inner power and strength we already possess, we can help the mind realise that there was absolutely nothing wrong with us in the first place…. To prepare the body for Utkata Konasana: Move through your surya namaskar A and B, staying a little longer in Utkatasana to wake up the legs and boost circulation in the lower body. Continue the sequence by practicing virabhadrasana 2 (warrior 2) to open the adductors, and focus on actively pressing the feet down and away to access the connection to the core. After practicing this to both sides of the body, come back into Tadasana (mountain pose). HOW TO:
- Let’s approach this posture from a wide-legged stance, as though you were preparing for prasarita padottanasana
- Stand with the feet wide apart (about a leg-length for a rough measure, but find what your body prefers)
- Turn the toes out diagonally; there’s no specific angle the toes should point out at, but ensure the knees are facing in the same direction as the toes to keep the ligaments stable and healthy.
- Bend the knees deeply; if you’re still building strength in the legs than take a small bend, but if you’re feeling good then lower the hips and see if you can move the thighs parallel to the floor.
- A great way to strengthen the muscles of the legs without fatiguing the muscles, is to maintain a slight pulsating movement through the lower body – lowering the hips up and down as the muscles of the legs contract and release. This will stop too much lactic acid from building up and you’ll be able to keep moving through your practice without feeling like your legs are on fire!
- Reach the arms out along-side the shoulders and turn the palms up to keep the chest open and free.
- Variations: I love teaching this posture with an added shoulder opener and core strengthener; for this variation bring the arms into the Garudasana position [[[[link]]]] and begin to make slow, snaking movements with the upper body. Yes it looks slightly strange, but you’ll be connecting to your deeper abdominal muscles, especially the transverse abdominis, which works to protect the spine and give us the support needed to move fluidly through your practice.
- To add more of a challenge in the lower body, either lift the toes to engage the arches of the feet and bring more activation to the quadriceps, or lift the heels from the floor to strengthen the calves. Either way the legs will probably start to shake….
- Stay in the posture for 5-10 breaths, or however long feels good to you. Become aware of any gripping sensations in the shoulders or jaw, and soften any unnecessary tension that may have accumulated in these areas.
- To transition out of the posture, straighten the legs and bring the feet parallel. Step or jump the feet together and take a moment to notice any sensations arising after the posture. This awareness of how the postures actually effect us is just as important – if not more so – than the posture itself.
Add postures like this into your daily practice this new year, and feel good in the skin you’re in right now!