Lessons from the Mat: Happy, Secure & Confident in Extended Side Angle PoseArticle posted in: Fitness
By: Eliza Darling
When I was driving home from yoga today, blissed-out and feeling strong, a commercial came on the radio advertising a personal trainer known as the “Shape Changer.” The voice that came through my speakers promised to help her clients, “Grow new glutes. Grow new quads and calves. Grow new shoulders. Grow a new body shape.” Changing what we don’t like about ourselves based on a societal conception of beauty, unfortunately, is a goal set for many. But the images of what define a beautiful body as portrayed on TV, movies and in print, is unrealistic and narrowly marginalizes how a healthy body should look. The “beautiful” bodies seen in the media belong to people whose job it is to literally spend hours a day sculpting their exteriors, and shows us nothing of what defines them as a human: What makes them happy, secure, confident and at peace. The “Shape Changer” advertisement sent an underlying message that I find to be flawed and dangerous: Change who you are because who you are isn’t good enough.
Humans across the globe come in anatomically diverse shapes and sizes. Instead of changing each person’s body to look like one mold, we should celebrate and empower health and strength. If you can run a mile, or practice yoga, or swim, or bike, or dance or do anything active, praise the body that makes it possible. If you mostly eat whole grains, and vibrant greens and lean protein, why feel guilty when you indulge in a delectable treat? If your lifestyle is active and your diet is healthy, does it really matter if your abs show by the pack or if your glutes bulge in your tightest denim? There are biological reasons why we don’t all look the same, and those differences should be honored instead of ignored.
There are more than seven billion humans living on this planet. We are diverse in how (and why) we move our bodies, what we feed them for nourishment and pleasure and how we define what makes a person attractive. Can you imagine if the “Shape Changer” sculpted all of our bodies to fit the mold of society’s definition of the “perfect body?” It would certainly not seem perfect—it would be odd (and creepy). Monotony is boring. Diversity is beautiful. Love, strength and health are essential.
POSE OF THE WEEK: UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA (EXTENDED SIDE ANGLE POSE)
Utthita Parsvakonasana is an excellent standing pose to perform at or near the beginning of your standing pose sequence. Through the physical challenge of the pose, allow yourself to feel empowered by your strength.
- Can strengthen and straighten the legs, knees and ankles.
- Helps stretch the groin, spine, waist, chest and shoulders.
- Can stimulate the abdominal organs.
- May help increase stamina.
HOW TO DO IT:
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog.
- Lift the right leg up and step the right foot between the hands.
- Spin the back foot flat, parallel to the back edge of the mat.
- Align the front heal with the arch of the back foot
- Inhale, engage the abdominals, lifting the torso up and reaching the arms out with palms facing down. Point fingers to the front and back of the room.
- Point right toes forward and stack the front knee over the ankle, pointing towards the second and third toes.
- Keep the left leg straight and engaged with the outer edge of the left foot pressing into the mat.
- Draw the frontal ribs in towards one another, move the shoulder blades down the back and lengthen the tailbone towards the floor.
- Extend energy out through the fingertips, creating a straight line from one hand to the other.
- Stack shoulders directly over the frontal hips points.
- Root the feet into the mat and the hips sink down, deepening the bend in the right knee.
- On an exhale breath, hinge forward at the waist and reach the right hand forward.
- Lower the right forearm to rest on the front thigh (modification) or lower the fingertips to the floor on the inside or the outside of the foot.
- Extend the left arm up towards the ceiling, turn the palm to face the head.
- On an inhalation, reach the left arm over the left ear with palm facing the floor to create a diagonal line from the left fingertips to the outer edge of the left foot.
- Press the feet onto the mat, keep the front knee bent and the hips low.
- Move the left shoulder away from the ear, and roll it back to keep the chest lifted and open.
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Return to Warrior II by bringing the torso upright and the arms parallel to the mat.
- Repeat on the other side.
TIPS & MODIFICATIONS:
- Avoid bending the back leg and lifting the outer edge of the back foot.
- Avoid extending the knee beyond the foot. Modify by lessening the bend in the knee or inching the front food a few inches forward.
- Avoid letting the front knee collapse inward.
- Avoid letting the outer hip on the bent knee side stick out to the side, move it towards the back of the mat.
- Rest front hand on a block (instead of resting the forearm on the thigh) for a supportive modification.
*Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.