A smart start to vinyasa

Se­cure the foun­da­tion for a safe vinyasa prac­tice with this thought­ful, chal­leng­ing se­quence from Natasha Ri­zopou­los.

Yoga Journal - - News -

GOOD SE­QUENC­ING IS LIKE A GOOD BOOK: It has both nar­ra­tive and en­er­getic arcs. This means your se­quence be­gins some­where strate­gic, it pro­ceeds pro­gres­sively and me­thod­i­cally to­ward a peak pose, and then it cools down from that peak to­ward Savasana. Along the way there are groups (or chap­ters) of poses that work to­gether log­i­cally to re­veal the peak pose. Even within each chap­ter there is a mini peak of sorts—a chal­lenge that the se­quence has pre­pared you for.

I teach this sto­ry­telling method of se­quenc­ing by in­tro­duc­ing what I call es­sen­tial el­e­ments— move­ments that lengthen, strengthen, or bring aware­ness to a body part that needs at­ten­tion in or­der for a peak pose to be fully re­al­ized. The goal is to in­tro­duce these es­sen­tial el­e­ments early on in your se­quence, un­der the sim­plest cir­cum­stances pos­si­ble, so you can prac­tice them with­out dis­trac­tion, then con­tinue to re­visit them in grad­u­ally more de­mand­ing ways as the se­quence con­tin­ues. In the fol­low­ing prac­tice, we’ll work on the es­sen­tial el­e­ment of draw­ing the heads of the up­per arms back in Tadasana (Moun­tain Pose). Then we’ll ap­ply this align­ment in pro­gres­sively more dif­fi­cult poses—Bhu­jan­gasana (Co­bra Pose), Chat­u­ranga, and Up­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose—over time set­ting the foun­da­tion for more dif­fi­cult arm bal­ances, like Bakasana (Crane Pose) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana (One-Footed Pose Ded­i­cated to the Sage Koundinya). As you prac­tice, hold each pose for as long as needed in or­der to dis­cover and im­print the ac­tions and align­ment that in­form it— this may take be­tween 5 and 20 breaths, de­pend­ing on the difficulty of the pose. Prac­tice a soft and steady Uj­jayi Pranayama (Vic­to­ri­ous Breath), notic­ing how the in­hala­tions can cre­ate space and open­ness (es­pe­cially in the chest) and how the ex­ha­la­tions tend to an­chor and lift the lower belly. Ob­serve how each of the poses builds on the pose that came be­fore it.

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