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10 Yoga Poses to Empower Yourself

live yoga- It’s through this practice that I’ve cultivated a harmonious connection with my body, developed tools to guide my mind, and nurtured an ever-deepening sense of compassion—both for myself and for others.

I firmly believe that compassion serves as a foundation for embracing my transgender identity with pride. Surprisingly, the moments that fill me with the most pride often stem from interactions with my live yoga. They frequently share less about physical progress in postures and more about the transformative shifts in their self-relationship.

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They express, “I can confront my fibromyalgia after your live yoga class… yoga has helped me on my path to sobriety… I feel less intimidated by others… your classes have empowered me in my journey to change my gender.” These conversations fill me with joy, as I witness their fearless commitment to radical self-transformation.

The following sequence not only nurtures self-compassion but also fosters self-acceptance, a concept I like to refer to as self-awareness-as-self-love. Ultimately, it is the path to healing deep-seated wounds. What happens when we prioritize self-awareness in our daily lives over sharing Handstand selfies on the beach? We can disrupt the cycle of our own personal traumas and the broader traumas ingrained in our culture. We can act with the awareness that our journey of healing has a positive ripple effect on others. Ultimately, our journey of self-transformation is a collective one, and this fills me with pride for the yoga community, my queer and trans companions, and the beautiful intersection where our paths converge.

Through this practice, may all living beings find happiness and freedom.

“10 Empowering Yoga Poses for Pride”

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Step 1: Begin in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and place your hands on the mat in front of you. Roll over your ankles and come onto your hands and knees.

Step 2: Bring your inner knees together and separate your feet just wider than the hips-width distance. Turn the tops of your feet down to the mat.

Step 3: Hold your upper calves and roll them away from the midline. Position your sitting bones between your ankles, either on the mat or on a prop like a block or bolster. Sit up tall and place your hands on your thighs. Stay in Virasana for five breaths.

Modifications: If your sitting bones don’t touch the ground between your ankles, sit on a block, blanket, or bolster.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

Virasana reminds me of the heroes I admire. Heroism entails qualities like discipline, humility, and authenticity. In Virasana, we must be honest about how far we’re willing to go in deciding the hip placement and duration of the pose. The pressure builds as we sit tall and breathe. I see this same level of discipline in individuals like Barbara Smith, a black feminist and lesbian author who advocated intersectionality. She ran activist organizations with remarkable women of color, emphasizing the importance of understanding how people are born into various intersections of socioeconomics, language, culture, and gender. Each of us is like a unique point on a multidimensional grid, and we must live responsibly and responsively. I see authenticity in people like Nikko Nelson, the first Wisconsin trans woman to be crowned prom queen. This pose helps me cultivate qualities that I admire.

Krounchasana (Heron Pose)

Step 1: From Virasana, place your left hand on the ground beside your hip, lean to the left, and hold your right ankle with your right hand. Use your right hand to help extend your right leg forward.

Step 2: Sit tall, draw your waistline in, and firm your shoulder blades back to maintain chest lift.

Step 3: Place the sole of your right foot on the mat, and bring both hands beneath your right thigh. Engage your right quadricep to straighten your right leg. Keep your spine long and walk your hands up the back of your right leg.

Step 4: Lean back slightly, keeping your spine long. Place the back of your right hand on the sole of your right foot, and hold your right wrist with your left hand. Hold for three breaths in Krounchasana.

Modifications: If your spine rounds forward or your right knee bends when binding your hands around your foot, use a strap around the base of your foot and maintain a long spine. If the right sit bone is significantly heavier than the left, place a blanket beneath the right buttock.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

Krounchasana measures progress over time. It requires an awakened core to maintain good spinal alignment while binding your foot—a result of dedicated practice to lengthen and strengthen the legs. The trans and queer community has grown similarly, one courageous and honest step at a time. Keeping the heart lifted and the chin raised is more important than reaching the top, and I’m proud of my community for presenting themselves to the world with a strong and open heart, above all else.

Baddha Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Bound One-Legged King Pigeon Pose)

Step 1: From Krounchasana, lower your straight right leg to the mat in front of you.

Step 2: Place your hands on the mat on either side of your hips, press into your palms, and lift your hips off the ground. Lean to the left and pivot your left foot inside your hips, positioning your left foot beneath your right hamstring when you set your hips down.

Step 3: Shift more weight onto your left hand and lean slightly onto your left hip. Swing your straight right leg back behind you. Rotate your right inner thigh upward until the center of your right knee, shin, and thigh face the mat.

Step 4: Gently move your left thigh bone back and isometrically draw your right hip forward to square your hips. Engage your outer hips toward the midline.

Step 5: Inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhale and bind your hands behind your back. Press your knuckles toward the back of your right knee, roll your shoulder blades back, and lift your sternum. Hold for three breaths in Baddha Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.

Modifications: Keep your hands on the earth or use blocks instead of binding.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

For me, yoga is a transformative journey that spirals healing and awareness from the individual to the collective. My students often share how their yoga practice has allowed them to approach their relationships with more bodhicitta, or a heart of compassion. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana with the bind symbolizes how LGBTQIA individuals open their hearts to the world, despite the challenges they face. While the hands may be bound, one leg may be restricted, the hope is that the heart rises in response to, and perhaps because of, these constraints.

Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog)

Step 1: From Baddha Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, inhale, release your bind, and reach your arms overhead. Exhale and place your palms beneath your shoulders.

Step 2: Inhale, curl your right toes under, and lift your right knee. Exhale and straighten your elbows to raise your left leg up behind you while lifting your hips.

Step 3: Wrap your shoulder blades around your outer ribs to deepen your armpits. Keep your shoulders aligned with the top of the mat.

Step 4: Engage your quadriceps to straighten your left leg and point your toes. Externally rotate your left thigh by turning your left knee to the left. Keep your left leg straight and turn your hips to the left. Engage your glutes to narrow your sitting bones and draw your waistline in. Hold for three breaths in Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana.

Modifications: Keep your lifted left leg parallel with your right, or lower your left foot to the floor for a symmetrical Downward-Facing Dog.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana is best aligned when the chest remains square with the top of the mat while the lifted leg and spine respond with a twist. Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the historic March on Washington, also happened to be gay. His contributions to two major minority groups required a firm connection with the ground and a willingness to explore the unknown. This pose cultivates the same courage, stability, and resilience.

High Lunge, Crescent Variation

Step 1: Start from Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana, and align your left hip with the mat by turning it downward. Inhale and engage your hands.

Step 2: Exhale and draw your knee toward your nose, lift your upper back toward the ceiling, separating your shoulder blades, and step your left foot forward between your hands.

Step 3: Stack your left knee over your left ankle and straighten your right knee until your right heel aligns with your right toes. Inhale and extend your arms overhead. Hold for three breaths in High Lunge, Crescent Variation.

Modifications: Keep your hands on the mat or on blocks on either side of your left foot instead of raising them overhead.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

This pose fills me with pride as I think of the fearless young LGBTQIA individuals who are courageously challenging and reshaping our society’s norms regarding gender. Many of our yoga spaces still have separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, and it pains me to direct my students to choose. Having experienced my own traumas in bathroom spaces, I provide the same information to every student and advocate for all-gender restrooms. In 2014, a first-grader who happens to be a trans girl won the right to use the bathroom corresponding to her gender identity in Colorado Springs. This pose feels like raising the torch of that courageous little soul as we take a significant step forward as if to say, “More light, more light, more light.”

Exalted Crescent Lunge Pose

Step 1: Begin from High Lunge, Crescent Variation. Inhale and lengthen through the crown of your head, exhale, and extend your right arm forward and your left arm backward, twisting to the left.

Step 2: Draw your hips inward from left to right. To maintain a forward-facing pelvis, embrace your left thigh and zip up the back of your right leg, from heel to sit bone.

Step 3: Hold your right thigh with your left hand, press your sitting bones down, and engage your core to draw your pubic bone toward your lower ribs. Reach your right hand upward and backward. Hold Exalted Crescent Lunge Pose for three breaths.

Modifications: If the bind is challenging, spread your arms wide and twist your upper body to the left.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

I find immense pride in Exalted Crescent Lunge Pose because it requires support from both the back and the front leg. My queer and trans students provide unwavering support and solidarity, forming a solid foundation. This foundation allows for a unique sense of freedom and fluidity in the upper body.

Runner’s Lunge Pose

Step 1: Begin in Exalted Crescent Lunge Pose, inhale, and transition back to High Lunge, Crescent Variation by aligning your chest forward and extending both arms overhead. Exhale, and place both hands inside your left foot.

Step 2: Inhale, widen the space between your shoulders and hips. Exhale, and lower your chest to the level of your thigh.

Step 3: Slide your left shoulder beneath the back of your left knee. Position your left hand on the mat to the pinkie-edge side of your left foot, and your right hand beneath your right shoulder. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and draw them toward your ribs. Move your shoulder blades away from your ears and your collarbone toward the top of the mat. Press your shoulder into your knee and pull your left foot back to press your knee pit against your shoulder. Straighten your right leg. Hold Runner’s Lunge Pose for three breaths.

Modifications: Keep your hands on the mat inside of your left foot, and/or lower your right knee to the mat or a blanket.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

This version of Anjaneyasana (Runner’s Lunge Pose) exudes strength and determination to me! I often humorously describe it as embodying a drag queen or king, or an icon like Ricky Martin, Lady Gaga, or even Ellen DeGeneres, boldly approaching the stage edge to get closer to the crowd. It’s intense and charged with potential, much like a coiled spring. This is how I envision queer leadership, whether in the public eye or within our own circles. We must remain grounded, close to the issues, and discern when to push forward and when to draw inward. This posture trains us to support both ourselves and the weight on our shoulders equally.

Baddha Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Bound Standing Splits Pose)

Step 1: From Runner’s Lunge Pose, maintain your left shoulder beneath the back of your knee, and your left hand planted on the outer edge of your left foot. Inhale, shift your weight to your left leg and exhale as you raise your right leg behind you. Engage your right quadriceps to straighten your lifted leg.

Step 2: Root through your right palm and press your left shoulder and left calf together. Externally rotate your right thigh by turning your right knee to the right. Lift your right foot toward the ceiling and point your toes.

Step 3: Bend your right knee and contract your hamstrings to bring your thigh and calf together. Grasp the top of your right foot with your left hand and point your right knee upward. Engage your core and gaze up at your lifted knee. Hold Baddha Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana for three breaths.

Modifications: Keep your hands on the mat or blocks, or reposition your left hand away from the pinkie-toe edge side of your left foot and onto the mat under your shoulder.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

As I was returning to Colorado from the Northwest, I made a deliberate stop in Laramie, Wyoming. Laramie was the hometown of Matthew Shepard, a college student brutally murdered in 1998 for being queer. His hate crime ignited widespread protests, resulting in demands for more stringent investigations and laws against crimes targeting the LGBTQIA community. The Matthew Shepard Foundation Angels still participate in protests, adorned in white linen and wings to counter hate rhetoric at LGBTQIA gatherings. Despite the progress, I felt anxious stopping to refuel in Laramie, but I was also conscious of why that fear existed. Baddha Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana teaches us balance and the ability to look up, even in precarious situations.

Svarga Dvijasana (Birds of Paradise)

Step 1: From Baddha Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana, maintain your left shoulder beneath the back of your knee, and keep your left hand planted on the outer edge of your left foot. As you exhale, release your grip on your right foot and place your right foot down on the mat, one footprint wider than hip-width apart.

Step 2: Bend your left knee and extend your right hand upward while twisting your chest to the right. Internally rotate your right humerus bone by turning your right bicep and palm backward toward the rear of the room. Bend your right elbow and rest the back of your right hand on your lower back. While keeping your left shoulder beneath your left knee, bend your left elbow toward your lower back and clasp your right wrist with your left hand.

Step 3: Gradually walk your right foot inward until it’s beneath your hips. Shift your weight onto your right leg. Maintain a gentle bend in your right knee, round your spine, and rise to a standing position, bringing your left leg up along with the bind.

Step 4: Draw your shoulder blades back and lift your chest. Lower your shoulders away from your ears and extend through the crown of your head. Engage your lower belly to stack your ribcage over your pelvis.

Step 5: Straighten your left leg and externally rotate your left thigh bone by turning your left knee to the left. Point your left toe and turn your head to the right. Hold Svarga Dvijasana for three breaths.

Modifications: In Step 2, you can use a strap passed from your right hand to your left instead of binding the hands.

Why It’s a Positively Empowering Pose

The name of this pose says it all! Dvijasana translates to “twice-born,” an experience well-known to queer and trans individuals. In my native culture, some beings were believed to possess two spirits, and the path to maturity was to honor both while inhabiting a single body. This coexistence and merging of the two spirits represent the second birth. This is precisely what yoga and the reality of being trans share—an integration of opposites. In this pose, you diligently ground yourself to maintain the form of a rare and unique flower in full bloom, and the inner experience is nothing short of heavenly when the balance is achieved between the work and the blossoming. All the while, you look over your shoulder as if to say, it’s just another part of who I am. For me, it’s a beautiful celebration of queerness.

Samasthiti (Equal Standing Pose)

Step 1: From Svarga Dvijasana, bend your left knee and round your spine to lower your left foot to the floor. Release your bind and step your feet to hip-width distance.

Step 2: Inhale as you rise to a standing position, reaching your arms overhead.

3. Exhale and bring your palms together in front of your heart.

Step 4: the muscles of your thighs and gently contract your buttocks. Draw your waistline inward and align your ribs over your hips. Inhale as you lift through your sternum. Exhale as you relax your shoulders away from your ears. Hold Samasthiti for three breaths.

Modifications: Allow your hands to hang beside your hips with your palms facing forward.

Why It’s an Empowering Pose

My beloved teacher, Jeanie Manchester, always has us hold Samasthiti for five breaths during Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) practice. The purpose is to return to a state of equality while standing tall. Not “come to,” but instead, “come back to.” With the support of the yoga community and other mindful communities, I believe we can regain the place of our original equal standing, collectively honoring the universal heart that we all share.

“Take the first step on your empowering yoga journey today – with live yoga strength, discover the power within you, and transform your life, one yoga pose at a time.”

On Key

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