Students tend to love or hate Goddess Pose. Goddess is a static plié squat, and is a major external hip opener that fires everything below your waist! Goddess Pose lengthens the adductors of your inner thighs and strengthens your calves, quadriceps, glutes, and core — and it doesn’t ignore your upper body.
“This wide-legged standing squat strengthens the entire lower body,” says Gretchen Lightfoot, E-RYT 200/RYT-500/YACEP, a yoga teacher based in Carmel, Indiana. “It opens the hips and chest, strengthens the thighs, and elongates the spine.”
Hindu goddess Kali, who is often depicted in battle basking victoriously in her trademark squatting posture, is the inspiration behind Goddess Pose. Kali’s fierceness symbolizes the power and strength of feminine energy. She is ever mindful of her call to protect all beings from negative forces.
When you assume Goddess Pose — known in Sanskrit as utkata konasana (“fierce angled”) — you bring forth this victorious and intense energy of the goddess!
How to Perform Goddess Pose
- Start at the top of your mat in mountain pose (stand tall with your big toes touching, heels slightly apart, hands at your sides, and turn your 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. Parallel your feet.
- Turn your toes outward 45-degrees, and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Track your knees over your second toe, and avoid your knees caving inward or bowing outward.
- Draw your shoulder blades back and downward, lift your chest, and tuck your tailbone.
- Extend your arms straight overhead and turn your palms toward one another (like you want to give yourself a high-five). Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds — or longer if you want more heat (don’t forget to breathe slowly and deeply!).
Pose Modifications and Variations
Goddess Pose is a “warming and energizing asana,” says Lightfoot, but there’s plenty of room to modify it.
You can crank the intensity when you want to go all-in or scale back when you’re feeling sore, tired, or tight.
Practicing the pose regularly can “help improve balance, focus, and concentration,” Lightfoot adds.
Goddess Pose offers major hip-opening benefits, which is why it’s often recommended during pregnancy.
“Goddess can create room in the pelvis, thereby making pregnancy, labor, and delivery more comfortable,” explains Lightfoot.
Here are some tips for making Goddess Pose work for you and your body.
Beginner’s Tips for Goddess Pose
Since Goddess Pose is basically a plié squat, alignment matters (which is a challenge)! The first few times you practice the pose, keep these tips from Lightfoot in mind:
- Come into the pose slowly, and, if you need a break, come out of it slowly.
- Make sure your knees are lined up with your toes to avoid injury. Form 90 degree angles so that 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 floor and lift your arches.
- Avoid bouncing your hips up and down.
- Keep your spine upright the whole time. Stack your shoulders over your hips.
- Notice the quality of your breath. If you’re holding your breath or it is coming out in fast spurts, take a break and come back 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 needing to make it a little easier sometimes (or all the time). To modify:
- Place your hands on your hips for balance.
- Don’t go as deep in your squat. Only lower to a place, you can hold with control.
- Feeling wobbly on your feet? Rest your hands on the back of a chair, or a wall recommends Lightfoot.
- If your heels can’t touch the floor comfortably, she suggests you roll up a mat or a blanket under your heels.
- You can bend your arms to 90-degrees if straight arms don’t suit your shoulders. If you choose this option, align your elbows with your shoulders.
How to Make Goddess Pose Harder
Think Goddess pose isn’t hard enough? Keep going — just stay put, and you’ll make it harder. Otherwise, try one of these options:
- Flow in and out: lower 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 it harder to balance.
- How low can you go? Parallel your thighs to the floor (knees over toes), suggests Lightfoot.
- Change up your arm position. Lightfoot offers these variations: lift them overhead, bring them to “prayer” at your heart or overhead, bend them at 90 degrees by your sides, or press your hands into your thighs.