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Yoga Journal - - Contents - By Kat Fowler

Yoga Vida teacher Kat Fowler de­liv­ers a se­quence of power poses for boost­ing your con­fi­dence.

I WAS 18—AND COM­PLETELY un­sure of my­self—when I first started prac­tic­ing yoga. I was in­se­cure about who I was and where my life was go­ing, and I never felt like I was enough. This man­i­fested as poor pos­ture: rounded shoul­ders and a down­ward gaze—a stance I held in a sub­con­scious at­tempt to hide my­self.

Grad­u­ally, my yoga prac­tice re­vealed that be­ing timid and fear­ful neg­a­tively af­fected the way I car­ried my­self. Luck­ily, both prac­tic­ing and teach­ing yoga has taught me how to make changes to my pos­ture that not only rad­i­cally shifted how I moved, but also trans­formed how I felt and pre­sented my­self to oth­ers. Over the years, I’ve worked on shift­ing my shy pos­ture into one that’s more pow­er­ful—with my shoul­ders drawn back and my heart shin­ing for­ward.

I de­signed the fol­low­ing se­quence to help you ac­cess more free­dom in your shoul­ders, ch­est, and spine. When you prac­tice th­ese pos­tures, no­tice if you feel a sense of coura­geous­ness within. Ideally, this prac­tice will em­power you to show up with more con­fi­dence and brav­ery in your own life, too.

1 BALASANA Child’s Pose, vari­a­tion

Start with your knees slightly wider than your rib cage with your big toes touch­ing. Let your sacrum re­lax to­ward your heels, and stretch your arms for­ward with your palms fac­ing up. Af­ter a few breaths, in­ter­lace your fin­gers and wrap your tri­ceps un­der and down to create space in your shoul­ders and neck. With your el­bows rooted to the mat, reach your knuck­les back to­ward the nape of your neck. Stay here for 1–2 min­utes.

2 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA

Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose

Come for­ward to Table­top with your wrists un­der your shoul­ders and your knees un­der your hips. Spread your fin­gers wide, then tuck your toes un­der, press­ing your legs up and back to Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart, and press your thigh­bones back­ward. As you in­hale, imag­ine fill­ing up your back with your breath; as you ex­hale, think of let­ting your belly hol­low out while draw­ing the front of your rib cage in to­ward your spine. Stay here for 5 breaths.

3 DOWN DOG VARI­A­TION

In­hale, ex­tend­ing your right leg to­ward the ceil­ing. As you ex­hale, bring your right knee to touch your nose, round­ing your spine. Then, re­turn to Down Dog Split. As you ex­hale, shift for­ward and bring your right knee to touch the top of your left arm. In­hale to sweep your leg up; then ex­hale, and bring your knee to the top of your right arm. In­hale to re­turn to Down Dog Split. Come to Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose, then re­peat on the other side.

4 ANJANEYASANA Low Lunge

Step your right foot for­ward be­tween your hands, mak­ing sure your front knee is di­rectly above your an­kle. Re­lease your back knee and foot to the ground, and square your hips to face for­ward. On an in­hala­tion, raise your arms to­ward the ceil­ing, palms fac­ing one an­other; on an ex­ha­la­tion, softly draw your lower ab­domen in and up. You should feel a lift­ing sen­sa­tion in this pose. Hold for 5 deep breaths, then re­turn to Down­wardFac­ing Dog. Re­peat on the other side.

5 URD­HVA MUKHA SVANASANA Up­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose

From Down Dog, shift for­ward to Plank Pose on an in­hala­tion. Make sure your wrists are above your shoul­ders and your heels are press­ing to­ward the back of your mat. On an ex­ha­la­tion, shift for­ward, draw in your ab­domen, and lower about half­way down for Chat­u­ranga Dan­dasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). From here, ex­tend your arms, and al­low your hips to lower. Roll onto the tops of your feet. Feel your rib cage move for­ward and up as you lift and open your ch­est; feel your shoul­der blades move down your back to­ward one an­other. Take 2–3 breaths here. On an ex­ha­la­tion, roll over your toes and press back to Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog.

9 UTTHAN PRISTHASANA Lizard Pose, vari­a­tion

On an in­hala­tion, reach your right leg up into Down Dog Split, then ex­hale to step your right foot to the out­side of your right hand. Re­lease your back knee to the mat. Turn your right foot slightly to the right, and roll onto the outer edge of your foot. Stay here, or reach your right arm up and then back, twist­ing your torso. You might even grab your left foot and draw your heel in to­ward your left sit­ting bone. Hold here for 5 breaths, then gen­tly re­lease your back foot. Walk both hands back be­neath your shoul­ders, tuck your back toes un­der, and step back to Down Dog. Re­peat on the other side.

6 UTTHITA TRIKONASANA Ex­tended Tri­an­gle Pose

Step your right foot for­ward be­tween your hands. Ground your back heel down at a 45-de­gree an­gle, and rise up to Virab­hadrasana I (War­rior Pose I). On an ex­ha­la­tion, open your hips to come into Virab­hadrasana II (War­rior Pose II). On an in­hala­tion, straighten your front leg, and reach for­ward as much as pos­si­ble— draw­ing your ab­domen in while slightly tipping your pelvis for­ward. Ex­hale, and re­lease your right hand down to the mid­dle of your shin. Reach your left hand sky­ward. Stay here for 5 breaths, then rise back up to stand­ing, and re­peat on the other side.

10 DOL­PHIN POSE

From Down Dog, come down to your hands and knees; then place your fore­arms on the ground, par­al­lel, with your el­bows be­neath your shoul­ders. Press your palms firmly into your mat, tuck your toes un­der, and press your hips up and back to ex­tend your legs. To em­pha­size the open­ing of your up­per back and shoul­ders, con­tin­u­ously press your ch­est back to­ward your thighs while re­lax­ing your head down to­ward the floor. It’s OK if your heels don’t reach the ground; the nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring short­ened an­gle of your hips in this pos­ture will be more dif­fi­cult on your ham­strings. Stay here for 5–8 breaths, then rest in Child’s Pose— this time with your knees to­gether and your arms reach­ing back (which rests your shoul­ders).

7 HIGH LUNGE, VARI­A­TION

From Down Dog, step your right foot be­tween your hands to Low Lunge. Us­ing the strength of your legs on an in­hala­tion, rise up to a High Lunge, reach­ing your arms over­head. As you in­hale, find length in your spine, and bring your hands to­gether in An­jali Mu­dra (Sa­lu­ta­tion Seal) at your heart; as you ex­hale, ro­tate your en­tire torso to hook your left el­bow to the out­side of your right thigh. Press your palms firmly against one an­other to ro­tate your rib cage sky­ward un­til your thumbs meet the cen­ter of your ch­est. You may even gaze above your top right shoul­der. Stay here for 5 breaths, then re­turn to Down Dog.

11 SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA Bridge Pose

Roll up and sit on your heels. Swing your legs around so they face the front of your mat, then lie down on your back. Bend your knees, plant your feet hip-width apart, and walk your heels in close to your butt. Walk your shoul­ders away from your ears to create a long neck. As you in­hale, press into your feet to lift your hips, hug­ging your in­ner thighs to­ward one an­other. On an ex­ha­la­tion, walk your arms to­ward one an­other and clasp your hands un­der­neath your back. On your next in­hala­tion, fully press your hips up to­ward the ceil­ing, and lengthen your tail­bone to­ward your knees. Hold here for 5 even breaths. Then, un­clasp your hands, and roll your spine down to the mat.

8 VASISTHASANA Side Plank Pose

On an in­hala­tion, step back to Plank Pose, bring­ing your feet to­gether to touch. On an ex­ha­la­tion, shift your weight to your left hand. Flex both feet, balanc­ing on the outer edge of your left foot. In­hale, and ex­tend your right arm sky­ward, di­rectly above your shoul­der. To deepen the pose, ex­tend your top arm to­ward the front of the room with your palm fac­ing down, cre­at­ing a bow-like shape with your body. Take 5 breaths here, then re­turn to Down Dog.

Re­peat poses 7–8 on the other side, then move through a vinyasa or into Down Dog.

12 URD­HVA DHANURASANA Up­ward Bow Pose or Wheel Pose

With your feet hip-width apart, heels close to your butt, place your palms down with your fin­ger­tips touch­ing your shoul­ders. Hug your el­bows in to­ward one an­other. Then on an in­hala­tion, press into your hands and feet si­mul­ta­ne­ously to lift your­self up, rest­ing the crown of your head on your mat. On your next ex­ha­la­tion, fully ex­tend your arms, this time lift­ing the crown of your head off the floor. Take 5 deep breaths here, and at the bot­tom of your last ex­ha­la­tion, slowly tuck your chin to your ch­est and lower your­self back down to your mat. Note: If Wheel Pose isn’t part of your prac­tice at this time, re­peat Bridge Pose.

13 JATHARA PARIVARTANASANA Re­volved Ab­domen Pose

Take your feet off the mat by bring­ing your knees di­rectly above your hips. Place your hands on your kneecaps and start to make gen­tle cir­cles (with your knees to­gether) in one di­rec­tion 5–10 times. When you’re done, bring your knees back to cen­ter above your hips, and place your arms in a cac­tus shape on your mat with your el­bows bent. Lift your hips and move them 1–2 inches to the left, then al­low your knees to gen­tly fall to your right, keep­ing them level with your hips. Stay here for 1 minute, then re­peat on the other side. Once you’re fin­ished, gen­tly hug your knees into your ch­est.

15 MATSYASANA Fish Pose, vari­a­tion

Place two yoga blocks about 6 inches apart at the back of your mat. Put the block that’s clos­est to the back edge of your mat at its high­est height and the one that’s closer to you at medium height. Lie back onto the blocks with your legs in con­struc­tive rest (feet hip-dis­tance apart, knees touch­ing). Stay here for 2–3 min­utes; slowly roll to one side, re­move your blocks, and roll onto your back.

14 BADDHA KONASANA Bound An­gle Pose

Rock your­self up to a seated po­si­tion, and bring the soles of your feet to­gether with your knees spread apart. Sit up tall, hold your feet with your hands, and rock your weight into the fronts of your sit­ting bones (so that your pelvis tips for­ward slightly). On an in­hala­tion, lengthen your spine and lift your ch­est; on an ex­ha­la­tion, gen­tly fold for­ward over your legs. Stay here for 1–2 min­utes, then re­turn to a seated po­si­tion on an in­hala­tion.

16 SAVASANA Corpse Pose

As you rest on your back, breathe nat­u­rally. Place your arms by your sides, palms fac­ing up (which rests the shoul­ders), and al­low your feet to splay apart. Close your eyes, and di­rect your at­ten­tion in­ward. Ob­serve where you feel warmth and en­ergy freely flow­ing through your body. Ob­serve the nat­u­ral ease in your breath from all of the new­found space cre­ated in your ch­est and rib cage. No­tice any emo­tions that come to the sur­face af­ter open­ing your front body—and your heart. Breathe into the new­found space in your heart, fill­ing your­self up with your own lov­ing en­ergy. Rest here for 5–7 min­utes, or un­til you feel com­pletely re­laxed.

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