Before starting a class, I often say something along these lines:
- Take class today at your own pace
- We practice together as a community but what happens on our own mat is very personal–we have to respect that
- All modifications and variations are welcome
- If something hurts, don’t do it
- Pain and discomfort are different, and the fine line between them is different for every person. The goal here is never pain, so please listen to your breath and your body to tell you when something is too much or not enough.
After battling my own ego in yoga for a few years, these are ideas that sunk in from my teachers, and allowed yoga to be welcoming to my body and mind. These are ideas I hope to instill in the classes I teach.
My friend and teacher Malik Wilson said something at the beginning of a class the other day: Don’t treat your body like a stranger.
That was a beautiful way to sum all of that up.
I also love teaching Balancing Half Moon. Not because I think it’s fun, but because it was a pose I remember thinking was impossible, wondering how on earth the people next to me where doing it, and I remember falling out of it, and I remember a teacher helping me, and I remember finally getting into the pose on my own. When I was still pretty new to yoga, my teacher Troy Jackson saw me struggling, and held me in the pose. Troy is practically 7 feet tall. He has an imposing, strong presence, and I’m sure he could lift me with one hand while casually enjoying steak dinner with the other. I so distrusted myself that I wouldn’t believe him when he said “I’ve got you.” I think I stuttered back “no you don’t I’m gonna fall” while failing to breathe. Balancing Half Moon is now one of my favorite poses. Being in the posture reminds me of the journey I went on to turn fear into joy. It’s a nice reminder for me when I meet life’s challenges off the mat.
Last Sunday night’s flow (still sticking with those longer holds of at least three rounds of breath in each pose. Several vinyasas were cued to go High Plank to belly to Locust, rather than High Plank to Low to UpDog):
- DownDog, flow 3x to plank
- DownDog Split, lower opposite forearm, bend knee, open hip, straighten leg and hip, step to Crescent Lunge with back knee down, tuck back toes, lift back knee, Low Lunge Twist* (V with knees-chest-chin to Low Cobra after first side, step to Ragdoll at top of mat after second side.)
- Mountain pose, 3 strong breaths. Sun As x3
- Crescent Lunge, hand to thigh, opposite arm reaches up for Peaceful Warrior, Twisting Crescent Lunge, Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Reverse Triangle, Warrior 2, V*
- Crescent Lunge, tip to Warrior 3, pull knee into chest with round spine, stand with leg lifted, cross ankle over knee for Figure-4 Standing Pigeon Chair (option to lower hands). Release to Mountain, V*
- Crescent Lunge, Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Reverse Triangle, Warrior 2, Extended Side Angle, Lizard Lunge, Drop to outside of back foot and step front leg back to Side Plank, V*
- Chair, Forward Fold with arm variation of choice
- Roll up to Mountain
- Standing Half Moon*
- Tree, knee forward, tip chest forward and take leg back for Airplane, release hand for Balancing Half Moon (optional challenge to take bottom hand to heart), release lifted leg for Low Lunge Twist, step to top of mat*
- Mountain, side step to Goddess with Eagle arms, turn toes in for Straddle Forward Fold. Bend knee back to Low Lunge, V*
- Hero, seated on a block. Press tops of toes to engage legs and feet. Palms together, thumb in front of forehead, elbows at shoulder height. Press palms and squeeze forearms to get push-pull tension as elbows stay at shoulder width. Breathe and sit tall with low belly and ribs in.
- Release to Dolphin. option to flow Dolphin to Forearm Plank. Drop knees for Cat-Cow with Dolphin arms.
- Table Top, Sunbird pose, option for the bind*
- Sit to heels and swing legs out for seated Staff pose, Forward Fold, Reverse Plank
- Seated Spinal Twists*
- Boat with side twist “crunches”, DownDog
- Half Pigeon (take supine version if you have knee pain). Before folding forward, hands at heart, sit tall, reach up, then fold.*
- Crawl to a seat and lie back down. Bridge/Wheel x2
- Supta Bada Konasana
- Optional Plow to Shoulder Stand (not recommended if you have glaucoma, high blood pressure, are pregnant, have neck, shoulder or spine pain/injury)
- Supine Spinal Twist*
- Happy Baby
V= Vinyasa of choice
* = repeat sequence other side