SmartFLOW cre­ator An­nie Car­pen­ter of­fers in­sight into how she se­quenced this core-strength­en­ing asana prac­tice.

Wish you could jump in­side the mind of a master teacher as she de­signs a se­quence? Here, this teacher’s teacher gives us a look at how she cre­ated a SmartFLOW se­quence to help you keep your hips free and your spine healthy—both on and off the mat.

Yoga Journal - - JANUARY 2018 -

The se­quenc­ing of yoga asana is both a science and an art. It is much more than link­ing to­gether a se­ries of poses to build to­ward a phys­i­cal goal; it in­volves an open­ness to ex­plo­ration and in­quiry, and a com­mit­ment to liv­ing in the now. Be­cause of this, we don’t teach poses in SmartFLOW; we teach Move­ment Prin­ci­ples that ask us to seek bal­ance in var­i­ous shapes and sen­sa­tions. Each Move­ment Prin­ci­ple de­scribes a con­tin­uum of mo­tion that has an ex­treme ex­pres­sion at one end (the ef­fort) and an in­tel­li­gent means for back­ing out of that ef­fort (the re­turn to cen­ter).

Each pose can be seen as an ex­plo­ration of a spe­cific ef­fort and its re­turn, and the arc of each se­quence in its en­tirety also ex­plores that same con­cept of ef­fort and re­turn. In this se­quence, we ex­plore hip flex­ion as our ef­fort and spinal ex­ten­sion as its re­turn. My be­lief is that the main rea­son we do yoga asana is to take care of our spines. The spine houses the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and is where the sushumna nadi runs—where prana (vi­tal sub­tle en­ergy) flows. Ev­ery pose we prac­tice is de­signed to throw the body off, so that we learn how to sta­bi­lize the spine and, in turn, en­hance the flow of prana. In this case, in­creas­ing hip flex­ion de­mands that we find ac­tive spinal ex­ten­sion to keep the spine in its nat­u­ral, op­ti­mal shape. In other words: Can you find a lit­tle back­bend in your for­ward fold?

In the first few poses, hip flex­ion is ex­plored in re­la­tion­ship to the spine. And while some of the peak poses may not be ac­ces­si­ble to all, the pro­gres­sion to­ward true hip flex­ion is es­sen­tial work ev­ery­one can do. Any SmartFLOW se­quence will also in­clude a few beloved and well-known move­ments and poses. To­ward the be­gin­ning of a se­quence, these poses work to warm your en­tire body and help you drop into a state of re­cep­tiv­ity and won­der. To­ward the end of a se­quence, we in­clude slower move­ments and hold poses for longer pe­ri­ods of time to shift us from ac­ti­va­tion to re­lax­ation— from ef­fort to a re­turn to cen­ter—so that we may feel fully ready for a deep Savasana (Corpse Pose).

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