The intention I set for my yoga practice and for when I teach any class is to “nurture and empower.” I believe that a regular yoga practice is one of the tools that will help us develop and encourage us to deepen both of those qualities. Some poses allow us to rest and let gravity hold us while we slowly release more deeply into the pose. I feel that way when I do Pose of the Child. In it you kneel down, sit back onto your heels, place your forehead on the floor and rest your arms, hands down, along side of your body. As you breathe your whole back stretches open from the bottom of your spine up to the top. Your legs and feet loosen up and your shoulders relax into the ground. Of, course there is also Savasana, Corpse Pose. It’s the last pose in most practices when the yogi lies flat out on his or her back, hands placed palms up next to one’s side and let’s gravity hold you while keeping the mind free of the clutter of life. I always remind my students that this is a very important pose because as one of my mentors, Nancy Hannah, taught me “Mindful movement followed by stillness brings healing to the mind, body and spirit.”
But, when I practice and when I teach, my mission is to also empower. There are many poses which can encourage a sense of strength and power. One of the poses that is frequently included in most practices is Virabhadrasana, Warrior Pose. There are three Warrior Poses. The tale surrounding these poses is that a young woman was deeply wounded by her father and decided to shed her body. While in a meditative state her body burst into flames. When her husband, the god Shiva, heard of her death he called on his fiercest warrior and named this warrior, Virabhadra, Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend). He then ordered Virabhadra to go and revenge his wife’s death, which Virabhadra did. Nowhere in the story does it say if the warrior is a man or a woman. You get to choose. When you take a stance for Warrior I, you spread your legs apart, both feet pointing forward, the back foot a little turned out, you bend your front knee, face forward and raise your straight arms overhead. You ground your feet and lift your torso. In Warrior II, you take the same basic stance, but you turn your torso to the side, place your arms in a tee position, palms down, and gaze out over the front hand. It looks like you’re preparing to throw a spear or a javelin. In Warrior III, you stand on one leg and your other leg is stretched back and it and your torso and arms are parallel to the ground, like your about to swing out and kick something. Practicing any one of these stances will elicit a feeling of power in mind, body and spirit.
The first time I heard someone tell me they needed to “stand in their power” I knew immediately what she meant. Sometimes it’s too easy to think small. It’s too easy to feel small, to let things go unresolved so that someone’s feelings are not ruffled but that can become a habit that only diminishes our power and our spirit. Years ago when I was a very young woman there were courses designed to help people become more assertive, not aggressive, they would stress, but assertive. Mostly these courses were attended by women. What decides wether or not a woman feels powerful or not or for that matter, how anyone feels about themselves? I’m sure the first criteria is their childhood experiences. Were they led to believe they were special, smart, gifted? Were they encouraged to follow their hearts and their imagination or were they treated poorly or worse? But, even after such spirit damaging treatment, many people go onto find their self worth.
Steve Jobs founder of Apple, died in October of 2011. He changed the face of IT and the way the world saw and used all sorts of technological equipment. One of the stories about Steve Jobs is that as a child when confronted by another child about his adoption, he became very upset. The other child asked him how it felt to know he was abandoned by his birth parents. His adopted parents gave the perfect answer to his question of abandonment. They explained to him that they had chosen him from all the other children in the world. For most of us, that would be enough to help us feel better and to value ourselves. Steve Jobs took it to a whole new level. He said from that moment on he knew he was not abandoned, he was CHOSEN!
As women age in our society, traditionally their value is diminished. Older women are not normally looked upon as favorably as older men. Just look at our older actors versus our older actresses. But, even if in America you don’t find a lot of older women in the movies, thank heavens for the Brits and Dames Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. It seems to me that the values our society holds up as a reflection of “success” are normally male held values. But, it is changing. Women today seem to be able to stay true to themselves and still find worldly success. But, let’s face it sadly, we still don’t have many women officially leading the countries of the world. We have had, however, many women warriors who have led our society out of darkness and into the light: Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and Helen Keller to name just a few. And, we do have many more women in professions that were once consider strictly male territory. When I majored in mathematics in college, I was one of 5 women in a program of about 100 men. No more! We now have women leading the fields of medicine, science, law and politics. But, perhaps, some of your heroines aren’t on this list. What of our mothers, sisters, friends and mentors? They may be the women you think of when you think of powerful, strong women.
What do you think your life would be like if you believed that you are chosen? What would it take for you to believe that you are powerful? What tools can you use to insure that as you move forward you will know that simply because you are, you are important; you are a force with which to be reckoned. One of the first tools is to stand up and tell yourself, “I am powerful! I stand in my power! I claim my power!” Yes we are chosen, each and every one of us. We have been chosen by the greatest Father of all time. Claim your power. Say it! Write it! Watch how your body responds. An affirmation can feel strange at first but don’t give up, keep with it and one day if you’re not there already, you’ll be in a place where you find yourself standing tall, feeling strong and you’ll know without a doubt that you are valued, you are important, you are loved.