We at MindBodyGreen love the positive effects a yoga practice can have on the body and mind. Since September is National Yoga Month, we decided to partner with our friends at Evolve to showcase women who feel empowered by yoga, and whose lives have changed as a result of the practice.
The following collection of photos celebrates women who inspire us every day with their humanity, inner strength and dedication to the practice of yoga, with each yogi describing in her own words how the poses have evolved over time, and how the practice has empowered her life.
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Power Pose: Grasshopper
The first time I ever saw this pose was years ago, probably between the covers of some yoga magazine. It stuck in my mind for ages because it was so hard to tell how to get into it and which body part was where. I remember thinking, If yoga can take a body and create this sculpture, then I want to learn how to do it.
Eventually, through trial and error and (lots) of patience, I figured it out and that moment was incredibly empowering. Then it became a regular part of my practice, but never routine. It has never lost that magical, sculptural quality for me.
The whole thing has been a journey of empowerment, self-confidence, self-knowledge, and self-love. But grace? That still eludes me...
Location: Sydney, Australia
Power Pose: I guess you could call this a modern take on Ashtavakrasana.
This is more of a playful pose than a traditional pose, and it's been a fun one to play with and explore its many variations.
To me this pose naturally looks awkward and can look really difficult to get into. You have to trust in each step along the way in order to surrender to the process and embrace the challenge. Whether you get into the pose or not is irrelevant; the empowerment in this pose is about the ability to embrace challenges in life with a sense of ease and grace, within the potentially awkward postures of life.
Mary Beth LaRue
Location: Venice, California
Power Pose: King Pigeon Pose
When I first started practicing more than 10 years ago, there was a lot less intention when entering a pose. It was more of a game of seeing what I was capable of and what I wasn't.
Now, though, being in a pose is about what I get from it energetically. Where I feel opening, where I feel strong, where emotions or fears might come up for me.
This pose has become such a symbol of that strength and shift for me. In order to be in this pose you have to be both open and strong, and to me that's such a beautiful thing to take into your everyday life.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Power Pose: Camatkarasana (wild thing or fallen triangle)
This pose has evolved from the stiff, calculated shape that I was doing, to a fluid, spiraling dance of wild realness and openness.
This pose empowers me to live from my own boundlessness center — that place that isn't willing to be tamed or conform. Yoga inspires me to live a life of creativity, authenticity and purpose.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Power Pose: Asta Vakrasana
I came to yoga with super tight hips, and asta vakrasana was like a physical puzzle for me to patiently solve one attempt at a time. It has evolved from impossible to one of my favorite poses.
Yoga reminds me that it's more rewarding to do the work than it is to avoid it. To be courageous is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable — something I've found to be true on my mat, in my relationships. Yoga's like a wonderfully honest friend who's not afraid to tell me to go back in and change into something better.
Location: Santa Monica, California
Power Pose: Kapotasana
I love backbends, or "heart-openers," and kapotasana is one of my favorites. If there's one thing I've learned after twenty years of yoga and two amazing children, it's that you're not really living unless you're living with your heart wide open. On my yoga mat, I started to understand my body was my home, it was where I was going to live for the rest of my life, and that I wanted to fill my home with patience and compassion and kindness.
Yoga strips away anything that's inauthentic, whether it's a relationship, a job, or a way of being in the world. Yoga brings you back to your true self, to your strength, to your intuition, to that limitless well of love we all possess. Moving through the world from that space as a single mom of two young children, as a yoga teacher, as a studio owner, and as a writer, is the most empowering thing I know.
Power Pose: Padangustasana Dhanurasana (Big Toe Bow Pose)
This pose used to be nonexistent for me. My backbend practice has always been challenging, and this was a posture I'd only dreamt of.
For a year I practiced with the amazing Noah Maze, who focused on opening my chest and back. One day in class he was teaching this pose and I decided to give it the good old college try. The next thing I knew, I was in the pose. I was in shock. Then I cried. I couldn't believe it. It cracked my head and heart open.. I was empowered. I realized in that moment that I can do anything I put my mind to, as long as I have the patience and humor to endure the process.
Location: Dry Lake Bed outside of Los Angeles, California
Power Pose: Mermaid Pose
The outer pose has stayed much the same, but my inner experience has deepened. It's by far my favorite pose. It feels graceful, fun and challenging enough that I am super present.
Through the practice of yoga I get in touch with the deeper dimensions of myself. It's where I come to feel empowered, balanced and calm. The practice of yoga is my daily medicine and meditation that keep me thriving and joyful.
Location: Mark Loader Studio in Tribeca, New York City
Power Pose: Compass Arm Balance
I gravitated toward the compass arm balance from the first time it was led in a class I was in, because it looked and felt awesome. At first, I pushed to try to make what I thought was the "proper shape." Then, I had my hamstring torn getting an adjustment "deeper into the pose." After a long recovery, I ventured back to try again. I flirted with it, and eventually, moved very delicately into the pose. I noticed that the easier I was, and the less I pushed, the more my body opened and allowed for the pose to happen.
This pose requires both strength and flexibility, and being able to find that balance with ease has empowered me to live my life with a balance of strength and flexibility. The compass arm balance (and yoga in general) has shown me that ease, rather than force, is what allows great openings to happen.
Location: El Matador Beach in Malibu, California, photo by Robert Sturman
Power Pose: Urdva Dhanurasana or Upward Bow Pose
I have tendinitis in my shoulder in three places right now so I can't do it at all. It's taught me about non-attachment. I have a very flexible back, so not being able to do backbends is humbling. It makes me have to go inward a a little more, to get quiet a little more. And that's always a challenge.
This pose empowers me because I think it's so beautiful. One of my favorite quotes to say in class is Rumi's, "Only from the heart can you touch the sky." Isn't it the truth? As a poet and a writer I notice the poetry in poses. This one has it all: rhythm, cadence, beauty. I find it inspiring to be so open.
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, photo by Dan Brand
Power Pose: Hanumanasana
This pose has always brought me up against my edge, both physically and mentally. When the teacher would call out hanumansana in a public class, a feeling of apprehension and angst would wash over me, and I would come into this pose with a combination of dread, aggression and even insecurity. I used to try to force myself into it and think that if I could just get a little bit deeper, a little bit closer to the ground, that I would feel this sense of arriving, this notion that I had finally 'gotten' the pose.
Then the lightbulb lit up and I really noticed this pattern of behavior that just wasn't serving me, in the pose and elsewhere in my life. I finally discovered that trying to literally push and muscle myself through it was in complete contradiction to what this pose was asking me to do.
More than any other pose, this pose asks me to be fully present and steady. It is through this deep connection to the moment and all that it holds and this foundation of steadiness and calm that the roots of empowerment take hold and move through me.
Location: New York City
Power Pose: Eka Pada Galavasana
I now trust the breath to do the heavy lifting, and the pose becomes light itself.
I feel empowered to have everything become part of my practice.
When you can't "do" something, but you keep practicing and the impossible becomes possible, you connect with your own infinity. It's Zero to God, real fast!
Location: Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island, Bahamas
Power Pose: Natarajasana
Dancer's Pose is one of the poses that I never could quite visualize myself getting into. When I would try, I always needed to hold onto a wall and often flung out of it very ungracefully. I knew I had the strength and flexibility to do it, but it just wasn't all coming together that easily. The first time I was able to get into and hold it, I was underwater, which made it easier because I was weightless and didn't need to balance. After feeling my body in it down there, I was able to easily recreate it on land. It evolved from a state of frustration, to one of patience, to one of wonder, to one of joy.
I love the lessons of patience, persistence and practice that yoga gives. It's shown me that even if I don't believe, if I keep showing up, keep trying, it all comes together. This has trickled over into other areas of my life. It has taught me to trust myself more.
Location: New York City
Power Pose: Upavista Konasana
This pose has evolved into a seat I can take that deeply lands me back into my body.
What I feel after doing this pose, when I come up and just rest my hands and close my eyes, is a synergy with my breathing and my spirit, a connection that feels like it's empowering every cell in my body to rest and listen.
Location: Fort Point San Francisco/under the Golden Gate Bridge, California
Power Pose: Chin Stand
The evolution of this pose has come through surrender and learning subtlety. To move into and out requires an awareness from crown to toes while simultaneously lengthening through the cervical spine and opening the heart and throat.
I'm empowered when I offer my ego into the fire, and instead of using force allow the stability of the earth below my hands, the softening of my own heart to float my legs skyward.
Location: The Getty Villa, Malibu, California, photo by Robert Sturman
Power Pose: Vasisthasana (Side plank) Variation
When I first started yoga, I could barely hold a downward facing dog for more than a few breaths without my arms starting to tremble! I practiced plank pose diligently to build up my core and upper body strength, and soon I was transitioning my plank onto its side and side plank became one of my favorite poses. I love the strength and confidence I feel in this pose!
Yoga has taught me that I am so much stronger and more capable than I ever imagined. My mind was one of my biggest limitations early on in my practice. I used to look at other yogis in class and think to myself, "I'll never be able to do that." I've learned to silence my inner critic and let go of my perceived limitations. When I stopped comparing myself to others, my practice blossomed. That doesn't necessarily mean that I feel amazing every time I step onto my mat, but every time I do step onto my mat, I believe that anything is possible.
Location: Soulshine Bali, Indonesia
Power Pose: Kapotasana
It's been a long journey to reach this full heart opener. I've been practicing over a decade now and throughout my adventure in yoga, it's been this category of poses that has plagued me the most. Only recently, on a transformative trip to Bali, with the loving guidance of my amazing teacher, Julie Rader, was I able to move into Kapotasana with ease. I was elated!
I find so many yoga poses empowering for various reasons, but this specific asana resonates so strongly because of the growth it signifies in me during this time in my practice. Yoga has benefitted me the most by allowing my heart to open wider, and what better representation than a deep posture led by heart? It makes me feel so loving and so fearless all in one breath!
Location: Santa Monica, California
Power Pose: Eka Pada Koundinyasa I
At first, I would just watch others in class float into arm balances and imagine it was possible. Then, I learned crow pose, side crow and eventually found my center of gravity and the mechanics to extend into the full version of Koundinyasa. Now, it's just fun and the deep twist feels soooo good!
I used to be jealous of yogis who were gymnasts, dancers or had super flexible bodies and seemed to easily slide into crazy poses. It took years of practice for me to build the mechanics, focus and strength to do challenging arm balances. I still can't do a handstand in the middle of the room, but I'm close. Yoga reminds me what's really important — not showy, sexy poses, but the self-love, patience, compassion, courage and steadiness that comes from showing up for yourself every day!
Location: Xinalani Retreat Center, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Power Pose: King Pigeon
Allowing myself to be courageous in my vulnerability for what my true intentions are is the greatest manifestation of self-empowerment. In order to achieve this pose, I had to first acknowledge it was important to me. The first time I put my foot to my head was with the aid of a teacher, then I started to be able to do this on my own. Eventually I worked my way into this version here, where I'm now moving my leg away from my body in a bigger heart-opening expression.
Opening up the front of my body physically promoted opening up to what's possible for me in my life. In an honest way it helped me to feel more empowered in my own Hero's Journey. When I practice King Pigeon I feel the power in the force of kindness that is energetically a gift from this pose.
Whether you're just beginning a practice or are a lifelong yogi, yoga is a place for you to feel grounded and empowered as you evolve — no matter what life throws at you. This month, Evolve celebrates yoga and the #PowerPose, fueling yogis naturally with protein and good stuff busy women need. Continue to enjoy these beautiful images of inspiring power poses from around the globe!
Location: Miami Beach, Florida
Power Pose: Vrschikasana
It took me nearly five years to learn to balance in a handstand, and I'm constantly fine-tuning my balance, strength and stability in scorpion handstand (Vrschikasana). The evolution of this posture has been from something that was literally impossible to something that was possible, and finally something that's part of my daily practice.
Arm balances and handstands give are a mirror into inner strength. Practicing Vrschikasana gives a sense of self-confidence and a strength beyond the daily vicissitudes of life.
Location: San Francisco CrossFit, California
Power Pose: Dancer's Pose (Natarajasana)
This pose represents strength, balance, and personal power, which are all qualities that continue to grow and expand as my practice of yoga deepens.
Yoga empowers me to live a life based in integrity, creativity, and balance. This pose specifically comes from Nataraj, who destroyed anything that wasn't authentic and based in truth. I've always loved that!
Location: Wind and Sea, La Jolla, California
Power Pose: Handstand/Vrschikasana B
I started kicking up into handstand a few years ago. Slowly, I started to move towards scorpion handstand. Pictures don't lie — I still have a ways to go!
Yoga helps women grow self-confidence, develop a healthy body image, and establish an appreciation for their bodies. I noticed a shift in my relationship with myself when I started to work my body into more challenging poses. It made me appreciate my body for it's strength, not criticize it for its size. And let's not forget about the breath. It is a life saver.
Location: Calistoga, California
Power Pose: Dancers Pose/Natarajasana
As I develop a better sense of balance, focus and flexibility, I'm able to take this pose deeper and deeper.
When I'm in the pose, I feel a sense of strength, I feel myself challenging my flexibility, my heart opens, and a sense of stillness enters my mind.
Location: New York City
Power Pose: Standing Head-to-Knee Pose
This pose did not come easily. Through regular practice, patience, mindful presence of the posture, I've achieved the movements; I continue to work on my fluidity, muscle engagement, and awareness. It has been transformative.
Both this pose and the practice of yoga empower my physical, mental, and spiritual focus, flexibility, fearlessness, determination, and balance. I am a stronger being.
Location: Maui, Hawaii
Power Pose: Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
This pose shifted from an absolute impossibility to an actuality over several years of dedicated practice. It took a lot of flinging and flailing (and falling!) into the unknown before I built up the confidence and strength to navigate this space with just a little bit of grace. I'm working on more of that... in all that I do.
When I balance in handstand, I'm all there. I have to be. For that breath or 10 that I'm up, I've truly been able to set aside all of my crap, and I'm floating in the fullness of my presence. Of my potential. I can feel how far I've come.
Location: Topanga backwoods, California
Power Pose: Sirsasana
The pose hasn't changed, but the woman offering the shape is constantly changing. It's my consciousness that's evolving.
The practice of offering myself to the divine by making shapes connects me to the infinite place inside that is capable of anything. Being a sovereign wombyn who is both strong and soft, open with boundaries, and living without fear or the need for approval, this practice allows me to find that wombyn.
Location: Aspen Mountain, Colorado
Power Pose: Warrior 1
This is one of the first poses I learned, and it remains one of the most difficult. It continues to challenge me to be present — to square off my hips and relax my shoulder blades down my back, finding effort and ease.
With a strong foundation and engaged Mula Bandha, I feel confident to open my arms to the sky in an offering of surrender and devotion.
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Power Pose: Full lotus handstand.
This pose took time. At first, I required a spot. Over time and slow, steady practice, I was able to create the pose without assistance.
This pose thrills me as it requires strength, flexibility and balance to achieve.
Location: New Jersey
Power Pose: Tolasana
I originally came to yoga through a birth defect that gifted me four partially formed vertebrae and severe scoliosis. The best allopathic prognosis was that I’d eventually be paralyzed. Growing up feeling like I was too fragile to take physical risks was intimidating and diminishing. Yoga in general, and especially arm balancing poses like Tolasana, helped me rebuild a mind-body connection.
Tolasana requires openness in your hips and power through your upper body, back and core. More importantly for me, this pose symbolizes having acquired the flexibility to rebound through life’s challenges, and the strength to persevere with grace.
Location: Chatham, New Jersey, photo by Robert Sturman
Power Pose: Natarajasana (kind dancer)
In early 2012 I saw a picture of a girl in this pose and tried to do it. It was almost impossible, and I thought I would never be able to do it. Shortly after that, I found out I had breast cancer. My yoga practice slowed down as I went through a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation. After I finished treatment I began to focus on my practice, and one day I decided to give natarajasana another try. To my surprise, I was able to get into it very easily. To me it meant everything in life is possible. Today my body may have some extra scars, but it sure is stronger than ever.
Yoga empowers me every time I step on my mat by reminding me to love and take care of my body every single day.
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