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Tag Archives: vinyasa flow

In Praise of Moving More Slowly

Jason Crandell in Urdhva Dhanurasana

Choosing to slow down is a radical decision. And, like most things, slowing down and paying attention takes practice. When it comes to yoga, I wholeheartedly believe that different people need to move at different paces in their flow class to feel satisfied. That said, like every other aspect of modern culture, the trend over the past 15 years in asana practices has been to go faster and faster.

Here’s why slowing down your flow can deepen your practice and benefit your students.

YOU’LL BE ABLE TO SYNC BREATH TO MOVEMENT

If you ask 100 vinyasa teachers to identify the most important component of vinyasa yoga, 100 of them will tell you “breathing.” But, strangely, many classes move at a pace that rushes the breath. I have actually seen students become worse breathers through their vinyasa class because they started taking classes that moved so quickly that their breath was chronically rushed. If breathing is truly the priority in vinyasa yoga—and it is—the pace of class should reflect that. The optimal pace of movement in vinyasa yoga allows your breathing to be full, deep, and unrushed.

YOU’LL BUILD MORE STRENGTH

Try this: Spend 3 or 4 breaths moving from Plank to Chaturanga. Hold Chaturanga for 2 breaths. Finally, take 2 breaths to transition into Upward Facing Dog. Compare this using 1 breath to move from Plank to Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog. It’s obvious that the slower movements and sustained postures create more strength than the faster movements.

YOU CAN FOCUS ON QUALITY OVER QUANITTY

You can do postures extremely well when you move quickly. But, it’s hard. It’s really hard. As a long-time asana practitioner I like working intensely, but I also want to make sure that my postures have physical integrity and provide effective benefits. Although I have limited range of motion in some regions of my body, I consider myself a skillful practitioner. When I move too quickly—and, when I feel the urge to include too many postures in my flows—I notice that the quality of my postures suffers. I see it in my own practice and I see it in my students’ practice. On the other hand, when I allow myself to move more slowly, I pick up details that I otherwise miss. As a student and teacher, I would always choose fewer postures done with clarity than more postures done with urgency.

IT’S EASIER TO SAVOR THE JOURNEY

How many times have you driven for hours to arrive at a destination and realized that you can’t remember anything about the journey? There’s a pacing “sweet spot” where your body gets an intense workout and your mind fully engages with your experience. If you move too quickly, you may have valuable practice, but your body and mind are less likely to learn and engage with the process along the way.

I originally wrote and published this article for yogaglo’s blog. In case you missed the news flash, yogaglo is really awesome and you should practice and train with me on their streaming service. Please check them out!

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A Smart Yoga Flow for Hamstrings

Downward-Facing Dog

I am a vinyasa flow girl through and through. I believe that spending time studying alignment is vital to a lifelong yoga practice — whether in the form of Iyengar classes/workshops or with a flow teacher like Jason who occasionally slows things down. When you learn to understand and tune into the details of alignment you not only stave off potential injuries, you truly learn the skill of connecting your body and mind.

But after years of studying, I find that most days I want to flow. I like to begin and end practice with postures that are close to the ground because these poses simultaneously help me settle in and open up. And in between, I like to move. Moderately-paced movements help me build heat and keep my busy mind focused. And when I repeat poses — as opposed to doing long, static holds — I give myself the opportunity to slowly open up into a pose.

The sequence below is a simple, forward bending flow that I love. Here are some notes on how to do the practice:

Poses 1-3: Half Happy Baby, Supta Padangusthasana A and Supta Padangusthasana B

Warming up your hamstrings on your back is a gentle, grounding way to begin. Be sure to keep a natural lumbar curve — don’t press your low back down into the ground. Do each of these poses for five breaths on both sides.

Poses 4 & 5: Downward-Facing Dog Pose and Uttanasana

From Supta Padangusthasana, draw your knees into your chest and rock back and forth on your spine. Keep rocking until you can place your hands on the floor in front of you and step back into Downward-Dog. Use this Down Dog to shake off the cobwebs. Feel free to pedal your feet and move and groove. Stay for 5-8 breaths.

Walk your feet to your hands and come into a very relaxed Uttanasana. Some people call this version Ragdoll. I’d like to coin the name, “Chill Uttanasana.” Do you think that will catch on? The point is: Bend your knees. Press down through your feet and try to gain length in your spine. After 5-8 deep, full breaths, roll up to standing.

Poses 6-10: Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Parsvottanasana, Prasarita Paddotanasana

Yahoo, it’s time to flow! Jump your feet wide and face sideways on your mat for poses 6-10. Repeat these poses on the second side. (If you know how, you can incorporate this section into Sun Salutations and repeat it twice on each side.)

Poses 11-14: Upavistha Konasana, Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottanasana, Savasana

Move into your seated postures remembering that the goal of a forward bending practice isn’t to slam your torso against your thighs. The goal is to stretch the whole back side of your body in a way that works for you!

In each of these poses press the tops of your thighbones down as you lengthen your spine into the forward bend. Stay for 5 breaths each (do Janu Sirsasana on both sides) before taking a 5-minute Savasana.

Sorry: Preschooler in a tutu not included. But feel free to incorporate your own, or your dog, your cat, your bird, your guinea pig…

Yoga Sequence for Hamstrings

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