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Essential Sequence: Open into Hanumanasana

First, a quick, shameless plug: I’ve just announced the dates and location for my 2017 Advanced Teacher Trainings. You can check here for more information and register at LoveStory Yoga. OK, now onto the regularly scheduled program.

Do you remember sliding easily into Hanumanasana (which you likely called “the splits”) when you were a kid? If you don’t, not to worry — I don’t either! It’s a pose that can still give me a challenge depending on the day, but over many years of practice, I’ve learned to find a safe, comfortable, and exhilarating place for my body to land.

When you first attempt Hanumanasana, you might focus a lot on your front leg and how tight it feels. You might think you need to spend exorbitant amounts of time stretching, stretching, stretching your hamstrings. But Hanumansana requires flexibility in both the front and back legs. The front leg requires hamstring suppleness, and the back leg requires openness in the hip flexors. When you can find a balance stretched between the front and back legs in Hanumanasana, you’ll find a balanced pose.

I always tell students that it doesn’t matter if your pelvis touches the floor in this pose — in fact, it doesn’t matter if your pelvis is miles away from the floor! Instead of jamming your body toward the floor (a recipe for back pain and other miseries), try to find a level pelvis, where you’re not tucking or overarching your lower back. Support yourself with props as you do this — you can stack blocks or a bolster or couch cushions underneath your pelvis for support. And don’t forget to use your leg muscles to support your endeavor — hug the inner thighs in toward each other and press your legs down into the floor to help you lift the pelvis and engage your hamstrings. It may seem counterintuitive to use your muscles while you’re stretching, but it will help keep your joints and the pose more supported.

Have fun and think of embodying the spirit of the pose’s namesake, the Hindu monkey God Hanuman as you lift your arms and breathe deeply in the pose.

To learn how to create essential sequences of your own, I encourage you to check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. And, as always, please sign up for my mailing list if you want to get a monthly reminder when new sequences go up. Have fun practicing!

Hanumanasana Yoga Sequence

Want to practice this sequence at home? When you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you FREE print-friendly PDF download for you to keep.

{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

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5 Things to Know About Yoga Teacher Training

Jason Teaching
On the last day of my 200-hour teacher training last August, I woke up early to reflect and write about the experience. For an entire month, I’d worked with an intelligent, skillful, engaged group of 40 students at triyoga in central London. While sitting at Fernandez and Wells—my favorite provider of superb dark roasts in Soho—I jotted down some of the themes that came up during the month. I think they’re helpful for anyone considering a teacher training.

(To learn more details about my upcoming teacher training programs, you can click here for my trainings in Europe and here for my training in the U.S.)


YOUR TEACHER WILL WITNESS YOU AND YOU WILL WITNESS YOUR TEACHER

Part of a yoga teacher’s job is to see you clearly. Your teacher doesn’t just see your body and how you move—they witness your personality, your comfort level in groups, your moods, and more. This isn’t to say that teachers are omniscient or perfect diagnosticians, but like photographers know light and chefs know flavor profiles, good yoga teachers know the human condition. And, guess what? Students also witness their teachers. Students are smart and intuitive. They’re capable of seeing the whole range of your personality pretty quickly. Since teachers and students will “see” each other during trainings—especially intensive, month-long trainings—it’s essential to embrace transparency, communication and, honesty, since your essence will already be visible to you and everyone else.

YOU WILL FEEL RAW—THAT’S HOW YOGA WORKS
I called the yoga room at triyoga “the incubator.” The month-long training was like an experiment in yoga, the human condition, and group dynamics. It was beautiful and powerful. Sure, everyone had their moments—including yours truly—where they wanted to escape, binge-watch anything on television, and inhale a box of chocolate. After all, transformation is not always easy, pretty, or convenient. Intensive trainings are intense. They make people feel raw, vulnerable, and exposed because that’s exactly what the process of transformation requires.

Jason Teaching

YOGA IS A SUBJECT MATTER AND YOU’RE AT THE CENTER OF IT
I love writing curriculum for teacher trainings. I’m content when I’m structuring content so that all the elements of the training are clearly defined and cohesively presented. Full disclosure: I’m a Virgo. But, the subject matter of yoga is much more than the teaching methodology, practice technique, philosophical contextualization, and teaching methodology that the syllabus suggests. The real subject is you. You are studying yourself when you’re studying yoga—even more so when you’re in training to teach. Yoga is clearly defined, but the experience of yoga is deeply personal and subjective.

TEACHING YOGA IS A PRACTICE
There’s always a moment of gravity in my teacher training programs when students realize that teaching yoga is going to be difficult. Executing all the layers of class—from sequencing and pacing to verbal cueing and adjusting—takes practice. In fact, teaching yoga is perpetual practice. We don’t just need beginner’s mind when we’re doing physical and spiritual practices, we need to cultivate beginner’s mind when we’re teaching these practices. This means that students should be given teaching exercises from the very beginning of the program. Even more, trainees need to be reminded that there is no reason to fear the countless mistakes that they will inevitably create as they practice teaching yoga.

STUDENTS NEED TO BE ASKED THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Trainings are filled with information. Students are taught the elements of class construction, practice technique, teaching methodology, and more. Trainings also need to inspire students’ self-inquiry by asking them the right reflection questions. Trainees connect to the deepest reasons they’re in the training by answering questions like, “if you could teach your students one thing through yoga about, what would it be?” Questions like, “What are the strengths and challenges of your personality as it relates to teaching yoga?” are also helpful sources of contemplation and trigger important conversations. Good trainings don’t just tell the student what to teach, they inspire the student to find what they are called to teach.

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Essential Sequence: Ease into Urdhva Dhanurasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana, aka Upward-Bow or Wheel Pose or simply “Backbend,” is an iconic pose in the yoga canon. Visually it represents the acrobatic flexibility that so many of us long for when we first begin the yoga practice. But too often the feeling of the pose doesn’t match that open, soaring look.

My first piece of advice when practicing Urdhva Dhanurasana is to focus on creating even sensations throughout your whole body when you do the pose. Instead of focusing on going deep, focus on creating evenness. When you practice this way, not only will the pose feel a whole lot better, you’ll be more apt to open the places that need it and derive the overall benefits of backbending! (An added benefit is that you potentially head off injuries because you’re not pushing past your edge).

This month’s sequence prepares you for Wheel Pose by opening the shoulders and upper back as well as the front sheath of the body — specifically the quadriceps and hip flexors. It also builds heat in the whole body. All of this should help you feel more ease, more space, more joy in your backbend.

There’s so much more to say about sequencing for backbends. If you want to find out more, I encourage you to check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. And, as always, please sign up for my mailing list if you want to get a monthly reminder when new sequences go up. Have fun practicing!

Quick side note: In the interest of keeping the sequence as easy-to-read as possible, we’ve chosen to write the poses out in English instead of Sanskrit this month.
30-Minute Wheel Pose Sequence
Download PDF

{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

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Essential Sequence: Bakasana

Yoga Sequence: Build Up to Bakasana

This sequence builds up to the peak pose Bakasana, aka Crane or Crow Pose. You’ll engage your core, do several poses to encourage flexion (rounding) in your upper back, and you’ll stretch the inner and outer hips.

Bakasana is a yoga pose that looks deceptively simple, but achieving lift-off the first time can be difficult. For a detailed, step-by-step guide to getting into the pose, check out the Bakasana Pose Notebook. I also provide details on which muscles engage and which are stretched in the pose.

As you practice the sequence, check in with yourself — where do you feel the most challenge? What parts of the sequence feel good? And if you want to learn more about developing meaningful effective vinyasa yoga sequences, check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing.

Want to practice this sequence at home? When you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you a FREE printer-friendly download for you to keep.

[illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

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