There are days when we want to work toward a peak pose, and there are other days when we’re not sure what to do with our bodies. On those days, I always find it’s most helpful to do an all-around balanced, whole body yoga sequence: One that stretches and strengthens all the different regions of the body, that works the front body, back, and side body, and that allows me to turn upside down, even if only for a 5-10 breaths.
Not only are these types of whole body yoga sequences physically balancing, they are often incredibly soothing to the nervous system.
To encourage this effect, I invite you to spread your attention evenly throughout your whole body as you do each pose in the yoga sequence below. Instead of focusing on the part of your body that feels the biggest sensation or stretch — which, by the way, can be a very valuable technique for focusing attention during asana practice — try to give all the different parts and pieces of the pose the same amount of attention. Let the shapes of the poses spark genuine curiosity in you — check in to what the back leg is doing in Warrior II or what the fingers are doing in Triangle Pose. By cultivating this type of attention, you’ll create a wonderful sense of soothing equanimity in your attention, in your nervous system, and in your poses.
Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations, are the quintessential yoga warm-up sequence. They combine deep breathing with flowing movement, they stretch the entire front and back of the body, and they build strength, too.
There are several variations of Sun Salutations; we thought we’d start with the most basic, which is version “A” in the yoga canon, or Sun Salutation A.
Before you begin, spend a few breaths in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Notice how your feet feel in contact with the earth — is there more weight on one foot than other? On the front of the foot or the back? Continue to scan your attention all the way up the body, observing the sensations that arise.
Let this inward drawn attention help you start to deepen your breath. Do a total of five rounds of Sun Salutations, synching each movement to your breath and staying in Downward-Dog for five breaths.
On days when you don’t have time for a long practice, this powerful package of poses can quiet your mind while boosting your energy and give you just the amount of stretch and activation you need to have a calm, productive day.
Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. Learn more here. Or I have three separate teacher trainings available online. Learn more about my Arm Balances, Sequencing, and Anatomy Online Courses here.
I’ve spent many an evening, after a long, hard day doing these poses in our living room while family life happens around me. That might mean that my daughter is jumping on me, or that there’s an occasional sports newscast on in the background. My evening wind down practice isn’t pristine (and yours doesn’t have to be either), but I still find it incredibly helpful to spend a few minutes on self-care in the evening. It provides a buffer zone that helps me relax so that when it’s time for sleep, my mind isn’t buzzing and my body isn’t calling out for more attention.
The evening sequence focuses on stretching the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders – all areas that accumulate tension in daily life. You’ll notice that there are no Sun Salutations at the beginning of the sequence and that’s intentional. The idea is to gently nurture yourself by stretching, breathing, and tuning your awareness to your body and breath. This act of focusing on exactly what you’re doing in your body and breath will help slow down the momentum of your mind so that when it’s time to let go and sleep, it’s easier to do that.
Take 5-10 breaths in each pose and do each side before moving to the next. Rest, savor, and repeat as often this evening-sequence you can!
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It’s a mantra I find myself repeating over and over again: If you study with me, I want to help you find your own voice. This takes time, and devotion, and practice. My job in the training room is to provide a safe space for you to explore who you are and to provide valuable, compassionate feedback.
When you commit to training with me, you’re really committing to yourself, to your practice, to your personal growth. I’m thrilled to be able to offer a 300-hour training in London this year that’s split into 100-hour modules. You can come to all three or choose to attend them individually.
Each module will help you shore up areas that need your attention — whether it’s your understanding of anatomy, your verbal communication, your sequencing, or your ability to express yourself effectively.
I put this video together to help capture what it is I hope to offer with these trainings. I hope you enjoy it and hope to see you soon! (For dates and details, take a look at my 300-Hour Teacher Training page.)
I love creating sequences for Parsva Bakasana. I always have. Since the posture contains so many components, there are countless ways I can take the class. I can focus on a sequence of upper body and core strengthening postures before tackling Parsva Bakasana. Or, I teach a practice full of deep, detoxifying twists before guiding my students into this peak pose. Other times, like in the sequence below, I’ll create a more balanced approach where each of the posture’s components is equally prepared.
Sequencing for Parsva Bakasana is also deeply satisfying because a sound, logical progression can help students break through and do the posture for the first time. Confusion is one of the biggest hurdles to doing this pose well—-or, at all. Often times students are physically capable to do the pose but struggle because they don’t know the building blocks. A good sequence demystifies the actions and helps you feel your way into the pose.
Since Parsva Bakasana is the foundation for more advanced arm balances such as Dwi Pada Koundinyasana and Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, it’s a nice posture to emphasize in mixed level classes because you can encourage the more seasoned students to work on these variations.
Here are a couple of thoughts about the practice before you begin:
Sequence Focus: Parsva Bakasana requires core strength, upper body strength, hip flexibility, and spinal flexibility. The practice begins with core strengthening postures, then transitions into a progression of twisting standing postures. The standing postures I chose will help open your hips and prepare your spinal muscles for the twisting component of Parsva Bakasana. Finally, the posture hits its’ peak with Bakasana and Parsva Bakasana. If Bakasana is a challenging pose for you, please check out my Bakasana sequence. Take your time, be patient, and enjoy yourself—-even if you struggle a little.
Before You Begin: For a longer, more intense practice, you can begin with Sun Salutations. Feel free to include as many lunge salutations, Surya Namaksar A, and Surya Namaskar B as you’d like. Otherwise, you can dive into the practice below.
After You Finish: This sequence is predominantly twists. Twists prepare the body for forward bends and backbends, so, really, you can go either way after you’ve concluded Parsva Bakasana. If you want to do forward bends, Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide Angle Pose), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) are a good bet. If you want to do backbends, I recommend a Low Lunge to open the front of your thigh before transitioning into a few rounds of Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) and Urdvha Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
You could take a few minutes in seated meditation before calling it a day and resting in Savasana.
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