June is LGBT Pride Month, which is especially meaningful on the heels of the horrific attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida—the worst mass shooting and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. In the aftermath of such an unthinkable tragedy, how can yogis come together to advocate peace, love, and pride? Justin Michael Williams, yoga teacher and co-founder of The Business of Yoga presented by Yoga Journal, developed this 7-pose flow to help foster both self-love and compassion for others.
“In the photos for this sequence, you’ll see I am in street clothes, which is an ode to the true practice of yoga. For me, the yoga practice is about getting more and more clear and confident in your own self and being able to celebrate that clearly in front of everyone at all times, no matter where you are, whether you are gay, straight, or whatever,” Williams says, adding that yoga helped him accept himself as a gay man when he started practicing at 17.
The five Warrior poses in his sequence serve as a nod to how difficult it can be to celebrate yourself openly and proudly. “I included Warrior poses in this sequence because they are powerful, and sometimes this [open celebration] is a hard thing to do,” he explains. “When you take the stance of the Warrior, you take pride in who you are, you stand for it fully and completely no matter what you’re coming up against.”
Williams also included variations of Warrior like Heart-Opened Warrior with the the hands interlaced behind the back to foster openness and receptivity to everyone else’s truth as well, he says. “Humble Warrior in the same vein is about honoring the truth of other people, and owning all that came before you, not being prideful for the fight of it but leading from the heart. When we as individuals come together in union, we can see some of that violence and hate dividing us start to dissolve. We stand together in our uniqueness, in our authenticity.”
Apply now for Williams’ Yoga Business Boot Camp event coming up at Yoga Journal LIVE! Estes Park.
7 Poses for Pride
Stand tall and proud with your feet together and palms together in Anjali Mudra at the center of your chest. Press the palms together evenly and feel yourself standing in your power.
Stand with your feet about 3.5–4 feet apart. Start with your right toes pointing straight forward and your left foot turned in about 45 degrees (shown here on the other side). Keep the back leg straight and strong and bend into the front knee until it rests above the ankle. Reach your arms up straight and strong, spread the fingers, and feel your power. Continue straight to the next pose.
Keeping the same lower body stance as the previous pose, interlace your hands behind your back and begin to lift your chest and gaze toward the sky, lengthening the back of your neck. Lift your interlaced hands away from your back leg, pointing your front knee over your ankle. Keep your breath smooth and deep as you open your heart. Continue straight to the next pose.
Keep your lower body in the same position and begin to bow forward, hinging from the hips, until your torso rests on or inside of your front thigh. Reach the arms up and overhead, keeping the fingers interlaced and palms clasped. Relax your neck and allow your neck to hang. Hold for 10 breaths.
Step your feet about 4 feet apart and reach your arms out to the sides, keeping them parallel to the floor. Turn your left foot slightly to the left and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees (shown here on the other side). Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward so that the center of the right kneecap is in line with the center of the left ankle. Bend into your right knee until it is over your right ankle. Extend evenly through both arms and feel into your power. Hold for 10 breaths and continue to the next pose.
Keep the lower body as it is, take the back hand down the back leg, and reach the front arm up toward the sky. Bend through the side waist, keeping your gaze toward the front fingers. Keep the front knee bent deeply as you bend back. Repeat from Mountain Pose on the other side.
Find a comfortable seated position. Interlace the tips of your fingers and place your hands over your heart center with the thumbs pointing up. I learned from Sianna Sherman that this mudra builds “unshakeable trust” and unwavering confidence in your Self. Sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply into the power of this mudra for 10–30 breaths.
How You Can Help
“I think one of the most important things people can do is use their throat chakra and use their voice,” Williams says. “[After] situations like Orlando, silence and prayer are appreciated, but it’s even more powerful to use our voices and take action to make a difference. It’s taking our yoga off the mat. Go on social media and express that you are here with us. This is something really special, regardless of your orientation. When we see our straight allies marching at the parades and celebrating, that helps bring more openness and less separation for everyone.”
About Justin Michael Williams
Justin Michael Williams will help you find your authentic voice and share it with the world. He is a vibrant public speaker, musician, and successful yoga instructor who travels the globe training the conscious community to thrive in marketing, media, and business. Justin has spearheaded the marketing development and social media of over 150 brands, both large and small, including, Sianna Sherman, Ashley Turner, Noah Mazé, and more. He is also the Co-Founder of the Business of Yoga, LLC and hosts Yoga Business Retreats around the world, helping yoga teachers flourish in business. By using his expertise to coach individuals and nonprofits, Justin works to spread positivity and inspire change throughout the social web. See more at justinmichaelwilliams.com
Williams is wearing the Pyrite Confidence Mala by Open Heart Warrior.