And the last pose for this series is, befittingly, the Goddess Pose. The Sanskrit word for this one is Utkata Konasana (I did have to look this up). Of all the hip openers in this series, this one is the most intense. The simultaneous movement of opening up the hips and sinking the hips down to the floor ensures that the stretch is deep and intense. Reaching up with the arms also helps in opening up the chest to enable better breathing.
- Great stretch for the hips and the groin.
- Strengthens the core.
- Holding for long periods will help in strengthening the legs
- Opens up the shoulders and chest and makes you feel like a Goddess.
- Helps in preparing the body for childbirth so can be done by pregnant women all the way to the end of the pregnancy.
Those of you with stiff ankles, hip and knee joints will face some discomfort when practicing this pose. My suggestion is to use blocks or roll up blankets and place them under your ankles. This will give you a stronger stance. Gradually you will be able to do this pose without the help of props.
Contrary to popular belief – Baddhakonasana isn’t’Butterfly’ in Sanskrit. Literally translated Baddhakonasana means Bound Angle Pose. A lot of people call this the ‘Cobbler Pose’ as well.
- AWESOME FOR TENSION AND STRESS RELIEF.
- Stretches the thighs, groin, hip joint and knees.
- Great for relief from sciatica pain.
- Reduces menstrual discomfort.
- Great for keeping the hip joint flexible which helps in preparing the body for childbirth.
If you have a groin, hip joint or knee injury you may want to exercise caution when practicing this pose.
And here’s a video explaining the Baddhakonasana.
Today’s pose is awesome because it’s one of those poses that our bodies have been designed to do, but because of how our lifestyles have changed in the last 50 years, we’ve lost the mobility and the range of motion to perform the Malasana or the Squat. The fact that it’s taken only 50 odd years for our bodies to ‘forget’ a basic and intuitive movement is unsettling. After all, the last 50 years is a minuscule time frame in the history of human evolution. Imagine the kind of effort required to undo the effects of millions of years of evolution!
There are some contraindications for the Malasana. If you have a knee, ankle or hip injury then I would suggest that you practice with props.
Benefits of the Malasana:
- Great to open up the hip joint.
- Massages the abdominal and digestive organs and stimulates elimination.
- Strengthens the legs, ankles and knees.
- Helps in reducing back ache, even for pregnant women.
- Conditions the lower body for child birth.
I remember when I first started practicing yoga, the Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) used to be my least favourite pose. It felt really uncomfortable and even gave me a back ache sometimes. I put it down to being overweight. I thought that because I was heavy, my hands were unable to support the weight of my lower body. Of course now I know better. And now I come across so many people who don’t! So many people tell me that their arms are not strong enough or their thighs/hips/butt are/is too big/heavy which prevents them from doing this pose well. Study your technique. The key to any yogasana lies in the technique. Study your technique.
Benefits of the Setubandhasana:
- Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
- Strengthens the core muscles and the legs.
- Enables blood flow to the brain and this helps in reducing stress and bringing about a feeling of rejuvenation and wellbeing.
- Provides an excellent massage to the abdominal organs.
- Massages the Thyroid gland.
- Helps in reducing discomfort during
- Reduces discomfort and pain during menstruation.
To avoid making the mistakes I did when practicing this asana remember to:
- Evenly distribute your weight on the soles of your feet.
- Push your soles into the floor evenly.
- Engage the thighs and the core muscles.
- Roll your shoulders back and away from your ears.
- Using your legs push your chest closer to the chin.
- Keep the back of your neck long and pushed against the floor.
In an interview with Prannoy Roy, BKS Iyengar said that he was still working on his Trikonasana. In my yoga class we work on Trikonasana every day and the teacher always frowns in disapproval. In an interview I watched a couple of weeks ago Maty Ezraty talks about how she can judge the level of a student by how they perform the Trikonasana. Personally, the Trikonasana has a heavy influence on my practice. Some days I break into the asana with great ease. Other days (like this morning) there’s some stiffness and soreness and I creak through the asana. Maybe it’s a combination of shoulder and hip opening. Or maybe it’s the stretch along the sides of the body or the release of tension from the shoulders….but this pose makes me want to linger.
- Great for the legs and torso.
- Relieves pain and tension from the lower back.
- Maintains the flexibility of the spine.
- Provides a great massage to the abdominal organs and stimulates them.
- Good for digestion since it provides a massage to the abdominal organs.
- Relieves backache, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
- Helps in managing flat feet (I’ve seen it even reduce the condition).
- Helps in managing and preventing osteoporosis and sciatica.
When practicing the Trikonasana, remember to:
- Keep the legs straight.
- Keep the chest open.
- Keep the spine long and strong.
- Bend the torso laterally (from the hip).
- Keep the hip joint open.
- Reach out with both hands.
- look down if you get migraines or have a BP condition.
- look down if you have a heart condition or neck pain.
Another standing asanas which I practice almost daily basis is the Parsvakonasana or the Side Angle Pose. Usually when I practice the standing asanas, I include this one also. It gives the hip joint that little bit of an extra stretch I usually transition from the Virbhadrasana II to the Parsvakonasana.
Benefits of the Parsvakonasana:
- Great to strengthen the quads, knees and ankles. Basically good for the entire leg.
- Opens up the hip joint. Therefore great to massage the reproductive and abdominal organs. So useful in conditions such as PCOS/PCOD.
- Alleviates menstrual discomfort by providing a relaxing stretch.
- Helps in toning the sides of the body.
- Great to open up the shoulders and the lungs.
When practicing the Parsvakonasana remember:
- To extend the arms outwards and engage even the fingertips!
- Keep the knee stacked on top of the ankle for the front leg and make sure the inner edge of the foot is pushed into the floor. (Most people tend to put their weight on the outer edge of the foot.)
- Pay lots of attention to the back leg. Ensure that the back foot is pushed firmly into the floor. Make sure you tighten the knee.
- Sink your hips down.
- Never ever let your chest collapse! (Keep the Warrior spirit going.)
Virbhadrasana 2 is another standing asana that I practice almost every single day. Just lifting my hands up and reaching out makes me feel powerful, like a Warrior. Something about this pose feels uplifting and in the final posture I always get this feeling of empowerment. As though I’m ready to face life with courage and power.
The benefits of Virbhadrasana II (Warrior II):
- Expands the chest so enables better breathing. Better breathing leads to more oxygen being assimilated into the system. This leads to more toxins being flushed out. Which leads to better skin and hair, amongst other things.
- Helps in treating and managing a slipped disc.
- Great to stretch and tone the thighs.
- Great to stretch and tone the hips (excess fat be gone!)
- From personal experience I can say this helps in relieving lower backache. I instantly feel my lower back relaxing when I practice this pose.
- Helps pregnant women deal with back ache!
- Helps in opening up the hip joint and keeps the joint flexible and supple. So you are less likely to injure it.
- Keeps the knees and ankles strong and supple as well.
A few things to remember when practicing this asana:
- Open up the chest.
- Relax the neck and shoulders.
- Extend the hands out as much as possible, down to the fingertips.
- Make sure the back knee is locked and thighs are tight.
- The front thigh should be parallel to the floor.
- The knee and the ankle of the front leg should be in one straight line.
And a very personal tip: When practicing this asana try to focus on the fact that this pose commemorates Virabhadra, the Warrior Shiva created to avenge Sati’s (his wife) death. Try and channelize your inner Warrior and watch how your struggles and hurdles melt away into insignificance.
Let’s start this series with a standing asana. When planning a yoga routine, it’s always good to throw in a couple of standing asanas because they increase strength and vitality. They also make you feel more energetic and warm the body up for the remaining session. Most standing asanas work on strengthening the legs. Along with this (because yogasanas work on multiple aspects at the same time), standing asanas work on balance and in Virbhdrasana 1 you are also working on opening up the hips. Which is why this pose is great for women. Any hip opener will work on toning and stretching the muscles of the lower back, which is imperative for pregnant women as well as for people who sit a lot.
The benefits of Virbhardasana 1 (Warrior 1):
- strengthens the legs
- strengthens the arms (yes! because you’re not only raising your arms up you are reaching up and spreading your fingers wide and ensuring that all the muscles of the arms are activated.)
- opens the hips and ensures that blood circulation around the hip joint and abdominal organs is increased.
- blood circulation to the reproductive organs is also increased, which is what helps in alleviating symptoms of PCOS/PCOD.
- opens up the chest (in the final pose lift the sternum up). This helps in opening up the lungs, which helps in better quality of breath.
- better breathing helps in more oxygen being assimilated into the system and this energizes the entire body.
- improves balance (it looks easy but balancing in this asana can be a challenge for some)
- with an improvement in balance comes an improvement in concentration levels.
This pose can be practiced by everyone, except those who are suffering from hip, knees, back or shoulder injuries. If you feel that you are not practicing this pose correctly, ask your teacher for help, or leave me a comment.
Also – pregnant and menstruating women can practice Virbhadrasana 1 too.