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Tag Archives: vinyasa yoga

Essential Sequence: Winning in Warrior III

WHY THIS SEQUENCE WORKS

I spent my first two years of yoga avoiding Warrior III. Then, I spent another year avoiding it. Finally, after avoiding it for an additional 15 years, I’ve made it a mainstay of my practice. What can I say? I guess it takes me a while to warm up to things that expose my weaknesses, knock me off balance, and frustrate my ego. I have to admit, I actually like it now.

Part of the reason I avoided the pose was that I didn’t feel that I should struggle with it nearly as much as I was. The degree of difficultly that I experienced didn’t seem commensurate with the challenge of the pose. After all, standing postures like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, arm balances like Eka Pada Galavasana, and balancing in inversions like Forearm Balance and Handstand weren’t very difficult for me. But, three seconds into Warrior III and I would topple over.

Now that I’m no longer avoiding the pose, I’ve figured out a few things that make it much more accessible and effective. Go figure, now that I’m not avoiding something, I’m actually learning about it—shocker. What incredible insights yoga teachers have, right?

Here are the things that I’m focusing on in the pose:

1) Strongly rooting down through the base of the big toe.
2) Strongly adducting both thighs toward each other like I’m squeezing a block.
3) Engaging the spinal muscles and hamstrings (of the top leg) like I’m doing Locust Pose.
4) Firmly pressing my hands together in Anjali Mudra for a few breaths to help me feel the midline of my body before reaching my arms forward.
5) Holding my breath, thinking about the future, judging myself, and assigning blame to others.

Here’s a quick sequence to help you build up to Warrior III. I’ve been enjoying this sequence quite a bit lately.

POSES 1-2

Simple, straightforward reclined Hamstring and Adductor lengthening to prepare for the upcoming demands of Warrior III.

POSES 3-4

Paripurna Navasana and Ardha Navasana pair perfectly to strengthen your core. Bringing your attention to your center early in this sequence will help you keep your attention focused on your midline when you get the wobbles in Warrior III later.

POSES 5-6

These two poses help you transition from the reclined and seated postures to the upcoming standing postures.

POSES 7-9

This is a progression of standing balances with the legs abducted and externally rotated. These postures will get you tuned in to standing balances and they’re typically easier than the upcoming standing balances.

POSES 10-12

These three postures shift the orientation of the legs and hips into the same orientation as the upcoming Warrior III.

POSES 13-15

Parsvottanasana gives you one more opportunity to prepare your hamstrings for Warrior III. Many teachers transition into Warrior III from Warrior I. I prefer transitioning into Warrior III from a high lunge. I think it makes more sense for the hips. Check it out and see what you think.

Want to practice this sequence at home? When you sign up for our newsletter we’ll send you a free printer-friendly PDF of the sequence!

AND, if you want to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your sequencing skills, check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. It’s great for yoga teachers and students who want to better understand how the body works and how to stretch and strengthen effectively.

{illustration by MCKIBILLO}

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Episode 52: Gina Caputo on Strengthening Your Awareness & Emotional Support Bananas

Gina Caputo has so much to offer to Yogaland: In addition to practicing and teaching yoga for nearly two decades, she’s been on the ground floor of opening and managing three different yoga schools — Sacred Movement in Venice, California, Kansas Siddhi Yoga Studio, and and The Colorado School of Yoga in Boulder, Colorado. Gina also has a FANTASTIC sense of humor. One of my favorite things she says in this interview is, “Be sincere, not serious.”

On this episode, I asked Gina to share her thoughts and stories about self-awareness practice, specifically her recent experience of doing a 10-day silent meditation course. Spoiler alert: She made it through 10 days of silence! But not without some support from a banana or two.

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RECOMMENDED & RELATED LINKS
Gina’s full post about the meditation course: Tales from the Cushion
Gina’s website: ginacaputo.com
Gina’s school: The Colorado School of Yoga

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If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! It makes it easier for others to find the podcast. If you don’t know how to leave a review, here are some step by step instructions. Woohoo! So easy!

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Mastering the Art of the Well-Paced Class

Every day during my teacher trainings I give my students time to practice on their own—at their own pace. The practice period is only 15 to 20 minutes, but it gives everyone a little quiet time to integrate the work we’ve been doing as a group. And, it gives everyone the opportunity to work on whatever it is they need at the time. I’ve watched hundreds of students practice in this environment and one thing that stands out: No one goes fast. No one. I’ve never seen one person choose to move at a pace that outstrips their breath. I’ve never seen someone go so fast that they get winded. I’ve seen people choose to practice quiet, restorative poses. I’ve seen people choose ridiculously demanding poses. I’ve seen people choose everything in between. But, I’ve never seen someone move so fast that they can’t breathe deeply.

In the modern world where everything has gotten faster and faster—including most styles of contemporary yoga—how do we pace a class so that it’s physically satisfying and mentally engaging without sacrificing important details that keep yoga safe and mindful? How do we make sure that there’s still some yoga in our yoga class? As teachers, how do we trust that we don’t have to make our mark by being teaching the fastest flows in town?

These are all important questions and they’re admittedly hard to answer conclusively in a 1,000 words. To be fair, we also have to acknowledge that pacing is somewhat subjective. One student’s “fast” is going to be too slow for another student. One student’s “slow” is going to be too fast for another student. So, like other aspects of teaching, teachers have to let go of the idea that they’re going to strike a perfect pacing balance for everyone.

It’s best to think about pacing as a tool to communicate what you are teaching. If you are teaching a mellow hip-opening class, you want the pace to be slow and soothing. On the other hand, if you’re teaching an invigorating sequence of standing poses, you may opt for a strong, steady pace. In both of these scenarios, you have to consider the experience you are aiming to give your students and tailor the flow accordingly.

The following three considerations will help you pace your classes skillfully:

Pace and momentum should facilitate—not detract—from awareness

Imagine that you have just arrived in a foreign city and you’ve decided to do a walking tour. But, well, you just want to get so much done on the walking tour that you run as fast as you can from scenic point to scenic point. Kudos to you, you completed the walking tour in record time! (Wow, what an accomplishment!) But, what did you notice about the scenic points? What did you notice about the sights, scents, and sounds? Did you notice any subtlety and detail or did you just get so much done?

The whole idea of sprinting through your vacation is, well, ridiculous. So, why would you sprint through your yoga practice? Is your practice just another thing to get done in order to have a sense of accomplishment? If so, what exactly do you feel you’re accomplishing?

In general, the pace of a vinyasa practice should be in direct proportion to a student’s ability to focus on the details that are present in their body, breath, and mind. This means that sprinting through a vinyasa practice to do 400 postures is unnecessary and ineffective because very little is understood in the process. That said, doing six poses in a 90-minute class isn’t the best solution either—at least not in a vinyasa practice. Other practices work this way to great effect, but this isn’t in keeping with the heart of vinyasa yoga.

Practice observing your students as they glide from pose to pose and notice if they are moving with awareness and skill. Notice if the pace is helping them focus on their practice. If not, notice if are you lulling them to sleep or accidentally teaching a spinning class (not that there’s anything wrong with spinning). Find the middle ground that captivates your students’ attention and provides them with a strong, satisfactory experience without making them run on fumes.

Pace your class like a bell-curve

It is helpful to imagine the pace of class as a bell-curve. You start class slowly and gently pick-up the tempo until it has a strong, yet sustainable tempo. Once you have hit the apex of your class, you can begin to slow the pace and settle in. This doesn’t mean that the peak-pose or crescendo of class has to be paced intensely. In fact, you may decide to slow things considerably as you work the most difficult postures in your sequence.

The important thing to take away is that pacing transitions should not be abrupt. Instead, students should be taken from a quiet beginning, through a substantial adventure, and brought to a relaxing finish. The pacing along the way should accelerate and decelerate incrementally and in proportion to the intensity that you want to deliver in any given class.

Keep with the theme of class

As previously stated, pace is one of several tools that you have at your disposal to communicate the essence of your teaching. It’s in the same toolkit as sequencing, adjusting, demonstrating, verbalizing, and so on. This means that the pace of your class should not be taken for granted or assumed. Instead, it should be a mindfully implemented instrument of your teaching. As such, your pace should be in-tune with your sequence and the teaching points of your class. Of course, your pacing—like the other elements in your teaching toolkit—is subjective and open to exploration.

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Episode 36: Q&A With Jason: Yoga…Not One-Size-Fits-All

The Q&As with Jason are back! On this episode we talk about hopping back to Plank Pose, what happens when your wrists won’t cooperate in arm balances, and tips for Triangle Pose. The BIG TAKEAWAY is this: Not all poses work for all bodies. Take that in. Let it bum you out. Then listen to the episode and let that truth set you free.

Subscribe via: iTunes | Acast | RSS

RECOMMENDED & RELATED LINKS
Hamstrings Sequence (helpful if you’re working on Triangle Pose)
Bakasana Sequence
Parsva Bakasana Sequence
Vasisthasana Sequence
Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Pigeon) Sequence
Pose Notebook: Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Pose Notebook: Tittibhasana
Pose Notebook: Eka Pada Bakasana I

MUSIC
David Szesztay — Gondola
David Szesztay — Sunny Street

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If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! I’m learning that it really does help others find it and it helps me to know which episodes resonate with you! You can also follow me on Twitter @yogalandpodcast.

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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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