Students tend to love or hate the goddess pose. Goddess is a static bent squat, and is a major external hip opener that pulls anything below your waist! Goddess Pose lengthens your inner thigh adductors and strengthens your calves, quads, glutes and core – and doesn’t ignore your upper body.
“This standing wide-legged squat strengthens your entire lower body,” says Gretchen Lightfoot, E-RYT 200/RYT-500/YACEP, yoga teacher based in Carmel, Indiana. “It opens up the hips and chest, strengthens the thighs and lengthens the spine.”
The Hindu goddess Kali, who is often depicted in battle basking victoriously in her crouching posture, is the inspiration behind the goddess pose. Kali’s ferocity symbolizes the power and strength of feminine energy. She is always aware of her call to protect all beings from negative forces.
When you assume the Goddess Pose – known in Sanskrit as utkata konasana (“fierce angle”) – you produce this victorious and intense Goddess energy!
How to Perform Goddess Pose
- Start at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose (stand straight with your big toes touching, heels slightly apart, hands at your sides and facing palms forward).
- Step your left leg back three to four feet and pivot on your heels toward the center of your mat until you face the long edge of your mat. Put your feet in parallel.
- Turn your toes outward at 45 degrees and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Follow your knees over your second toe and prevent your knees from collapsing inward or bowing outward.
- Pull your shoulder blades back and down, lift your chest and tuck your tailbone.
- Extend your arms above your head and turn your palms toward each other (like you want to give yourself a high-five). Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds – or longer if you want more warmth (remember to breathe slowly and deeply!).
Modifications and pose variations
Goddess Pose is a “warming, energizing asana,” says Lightfoot, but there’s plenty of room to modify it.
You can increase the intensity when you want to go all-in or decrease when you feel sore, tired or tense.
Practicing the pose regularly can “help improve balance, focus, and concentration,” adds Lightfoot.
Goddess Pose offers major hip-opening benefits, which is why it is often recommended during pregnancy.
“The Goddess can create space in the pelvis, making pregnancy, labor and childbirth more comfortable,” Lightfoot explains.
Here are some tips to make Goddess Pose work for you and your body.
Beginner’s Tips for Goddess Pose
Since Goddess Pose is essentially a bent squat, alignment is important (which is a challenge)! The first few times you practice the pose, keep these tips from Lightfoot in mind:
- Slowly come into the pose and, if you need a break, slowly come out.
- Make sure your knees are aligned with your toes to avoid injury. Form 90 degree angles so your knees don’t roll in or out.
- Don’t forget your feet. Try not to let the inner arches of your feet collapse. Press your heels into the ground and lift your arches.
- Avoid bouncing your hips up and down.
- Keep your spine straight all the time. Stack your shoulders over your hips.
- Notice the quality of your breathing. If you hold your breath or it comes out in quick spurts, pause and return to Goddess Pose when you’re ready.
How to Make Goddess Pose Easier
Goddess pose will make you sweat! So there’s no shame in having to make things a little easier sometimes (or all the time). Edit:
- Place your hands on your hips for balance.
- Don’t go so deep in your squat. Only lower in a place you can hold with control.
- Do you feel wobbly on your feet? Rest your hands on the back of a chair or on a wall recommends Lightfoot.
- If your heels can’t comfortably touch the floor, she suggests rolling a mat or blanket under your heels.
- You can bend your arms 90 degrees if straight arms don’t fit your shoulders. If you choose this option, align your elbows with your shoulders.
How to Make Goddess Pose More Difficult
Think Goddess Pose isn’t hard enough? Keep going – just stay put and you’ll make things more difficult. Otherwise, try one of these options:
- Flow In and Out: Lower yourself into Goddess Pose as you exhale, then straighten your legs as you inhale. Repeat until you feel the burn.
- To deepen the pose and further challenge your balance and leg muscles, lift your heels and balance on your toes.
- Close your eyes to make balancing harder.
- How low can you go? Put your thighs parallel to the floor (knees over toes), suggests Lightfoot.
- Change the position of your arms. Lightfoot offers these variations: lift them above your head, bring them to “prayer” at your heart level or above your head, bend them 90 degrees to your sides, or press your hands to your thighs.