When students register for a core-themed workshop, they expect their abdominals to be battered and bruised into next week. It’s a strange—somewhat admirable—masochism that exists in few communities outside of yoga (save, perhaps, the crossfit, pilates, and functional fitness communities). But, if you’ve read The Illustrated Guide to Yoga + Your Core, Part 1 you’ve learned that the abdominals are only one part of your core. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to what I call the “complements to your core.” These muscles either work together with your core, like the way engaging your inner legs helps you engage your pelvic floor muscles. Or, they balance your core muscles by providing the opposite action, the way your hamstrings balance the actions of your hip flexors. Continue reading →Read More > >
In my 500-hour Teacher-Training Programs I have my students compare Bakasana and Titthibhasana, or Firefly Pose, with the aim of learning how to create effective sequences for each of these postures.
When the trainees look at the two poses side-by-side, they see something they usually haven’t noticed before: Bakasana and Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose) are nearly the exact same pose. However, the one major difference between the two postures has significant sequencing implications. We’ll get to the yoga sequencing implications in a moment. But first, let’s look at the similarities between the two poses. Take a moment to compare Bakasana and Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose) below.
Bakasana and Titthibhasana share the following similarities:
1. Both poses flex the spine.
2. Both poses broaden the scapulae while strongly engaging the serratus anterior.
3. Both poses require strong core engagement, most significantly the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, and the illio-psoas.
4. The shoulder joint (or gleno-humeral joint for you fact-checkers out there) is at approximately 90 degrees of flexion in both poses.
5. Both poses strongly flex the hip joints and require the adductors (inner thigh muscles) to engage to prevent the legs from sliding down the arms.
In simple terms, the arms, shoulders, shoulder blades, spine, core, and hips are doing the same thing in Bakasana and Tittibhasana.
The one significant difference between the two poses is that the legs are bent in Bakasana and they’re straight in Tittibhasana. That’s all folks.
But—and this is a big BUT—straightening the legs has far-reaching implications that makes sequencing for Tittibhasana different than sequencing for Bakasana. When you straighten your knees in Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose) you:
1.Stretch your hamstrings. The hamstrings are contracting in Bakasana, but they’re stretching in Tittibhasana. This means your students need plenty of hamstring preparations in the sequence that you create.
2.Stretch and contract your adductor muscles. Tittibhasana requires you to stretch the adductors since the legs open at a slight angle when you straighten the knees in this pose. At the same time, the pose requires you to engage your adductors so that your legs don’t slide down your arms. To facilitate this, your sequencing needs to include both adductor opening and strengthening.
3.Engage your core (even more). If your hamstrings and adductors are the least bit tight, they will pull the weight of your body down as soon as you start straightening your legs. To counteract this downward pull, you have to fire up your core and create even greater lift than you do in Bakasana.
4.Engage your quads: Engaging your quads straightens your knees in Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose). Your quads also work with your core to flex your hips and support the weight of your pelvis. Your sequence and your verbal cueing should include postures that help your students tune into these muscles so they know how to engage them once it’s time for Tittibhasana.
Practice the 16-pose sequence above and notice how all of these layers are incorporated. Let me know how it goes in the comment section below!
When you understand the nuances of postures like Bakasana and Tittibhasana, you can help demystify these poses for your students. Even more, you can create logical, effective sequences that keep your classes fresh and help your students do more than they ever thought they could.
Developing effective sequencing for all levels, including more advanced postures like these arm balances is one of the pillars of my Teacher Training Programs. I offer my 500-hour Advanced Certification in San Francisco, London, and Hong Kong. If you want to deepen your practice, advance your teaching, and learn to create more effective sequencing, please join me!
I know I’m not alone in my love for Handstand. It’s empowering, strengthening, and fun. Whether you’re working at the wall, in a studio, or trying to do the pose on a paddleboard, the following sequence will help you build a strong, stable Handstand.
Here’s a look at my thought process when putting together the sequence.
The holidays invite us to settle in, slow down, and spend time savoring the most essential elements of our lives. They also include planes, trains, automobiles, overeating, in-laws, expectations, and time spent on a completely different schedule. With everything that the holidays involve, it’s even more important to stay connected to your body and breath. To do this, you may need to adjust your expectations during this time of year. My recommendation is to keep your practice simple and straightforward. Focus on simple, essential postures that help you stay focused, grounded, and present.
I’ve created two short and sweet practices that will help you connect to your core. The two sequences represent a balanced approach to working with your center. One is a mellow sequence that will help soothe your digestive system. The other is a quick practice to fire up, stimulate, and strengthen your midsection. Both practices are effective, quick, and simple. In fact, they’re simple enough that you may want to get your friends and family off the couch and share your practice with them!
TWO CORE YOGA SEQUENCES
There are many ways you can use these core yoga sequences. You can do either sequence on it’s own, you can combine them for a longer sequence, or you can use them as inspiration to get you on the mat and then add as many postures as you like. Please feel free to explore and experiment. For all of the yoga teachers out there, challenge yourself to create an entire practice for your students from these mini-sequences.
The core sequence includes variations and poses you might not have seen before, so I’ve included short instructions beneath the graphic.
Let me know how it goes for you and Happy Thanksgiving!
1) Core Connector: Squeeze a block (or folded pillow) between your inner thighs to engage your inner leg muscles (adductors). Keeping the natural curve of your lower back, lift your feet an inch or two away from the ground. If you lift your feet too high, the posture will become much easier. Gently draw your navel toward your spine and stay for several breaths. Repeat a few times.
2) Reclined Side Crow: Side Crow (aka Side Crane) on your back is a killer abdominal strengthener. Start on your back. Start by lifting your head and chest off the ground and drawing your knees toward your chest. Twist your torso, reaching both arms toward the outside of your left knee. Stay for a few breaths and repeat on the second side. Repeat a few times.
3) Reclined Handstand: Start on your back. Lift your head, upper back, and legs off the floor. Raise your arms slightly off the ground and reach them away from you. Squeeze your legs together and draw your navel toward your spine. Stay until you collapse into a puddle on the ground.
4) Forearm Plank: Forearm Plank works your core much more strongly than regular plank. Start in Sphinx Pose with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Tuck your toes, then slowly lift your torso, hips, and thighs away from the floor. Stay here for a breath or two, then lift and straighten your knees. Stay for 5-10 breaths before lowering back into Sphinx pose. Repeat two more times.
5) Paripurna Navasana: Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Root down through the front of your sitting bones, lengthen your spine, and lift your feet until your shins are parallel to the floor. Continue to lift your lower back and lengthen your spine while you straighten your knees. If straightening your knees strains your lower back or tilts you backward, bend your knees. Take a few breaths here, then bring your toes back to the floor. Repeat two more times.
6) Ardha Navasana: This is a much harder version of Navasana. If it stresses on your lower back, simply repeat Navasana with bent knees. To begin, sit on your mat with your legs straight. Hold the outside of your thighs with your hands. Tuck your tailbone to rotate your pelvis back and slowly lower your back toward the floor. As you lower your torso, slightly lift your legs. Unlike Navasana, you’re slightly rounding your back toward the floor and allowing your chest to sink. Feel free to intensify the pose by interlacing your fingers behind your head. Take a few breaths before releasing and relaxing your whole body into the ground.
This Bakasana 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.
How To Use This Bakasana Sequence
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.
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