How to: Vinyasa
So my sister took these photos for me months ago and I was so critical of myself in the photos that I never got around to posting them -- until I realized how silly of me that was! Sure I was a little bummed the lighting didn't quite work out for half the shots I wanted and that I never got the "perfect" plank shot captured, but then I reminded myself what I so often try to remind my students in class. It's not about how the pose looks, it's about how it makes you feel.
Closing your eyes to roll through some cat-cows and not caring what it looks like is one of the most glorious feelings in the world! On top of not caring what the pose looks like, it's important to remember that we don't have to have a "perfect pose". To embrace wherever we may be at along our journey in life. Besides, its called a yoga practice for a reason.
With that being said, I asked her to take these photos because I've been wanting to post more yoga related things to the blog, and I'd love to hear if there's anything in particular you'd like to see (seriously, send me a message or leave comments below)!
To kick things off, I knew I wanted to start with a 'How to Vinyasa' post because this little flow is something I try to incorporate into each and every day. While the word vinyasa means movement with breath, I’m sharing the typical vinyasa I teach leading up to a downward facing dog (often instructed at the end of a standing series or as part of sun salutations). If you're interested in adding a little flow to your day, check out the sequence below:
Plank is often referred to as "top of a push up" which I think paints a pretty clear picture of this pose. Stack the shoulders directly over the wrists and make sure all ten fingers are spread wide. Lift the hips so that your body makes one straight line from head to toe. Engage the abdominal muscles by lifting your belly button up towards the spine. Tuck your tailbone towards the heels to prevent arching in the spine. Lift the knee caps up to engage your quadriceps or thigh muscles. Reach out through your heels to keep the legs engaged. Gaze towards the top of your mat. Breathe.
"Yoga Push Up"
From plank pose, inhale and rock forward on your toes so the shoulders shift forward of your hands. As you exhale, lower your body half way to the ground by bending the elbows and hugging them in towards the ribs as you lower.** Continue to hug the belly button towards the spine and lift the knee caps to keep your core and legs engaged. Keep the shoulders lifting up away from the mat. Your gaze should be slightly ahead of you, looking towards the top of your mat.
** Knees can be lowered in this pose to modify and build upper arm strength.
Upward Facing Dog
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
From Chaturanga, inhale as you straighten the arms, flip the toes under, and drop the hips down toward the ground. Draw the shoulders back and down away from your ears while you press down through the tops of your toes, knees and thighs lifting away from the mat. Gaze can come up slightly if it is comfortable on the neck.
Downward Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Svanasana
From upward facing dog, exhale to lift the hips up and back and tuck your toes underneath you. Keep a generous bend in the knees to slowly warm the backs of the legs. You can also "walk out the dog" here by bending one knee at a time and dropping the opposite heel down, stretching the calf and hamstring.
Check that your hands are still shoulder distance apart and all ten fingers are spread wide, making a nice big "L" with your pointer finger and thumb. Ground down through the fingertips and the base of your fingers. Reach your sit bones up to the sky and keep the spine long and straight. Allow your head to come in line with your arms and let your chest relax towards the mat. Breathe.
While I'm presenting this vinyasa as a sequence of poses, each pose can be practiced separately too, of course. Feel free to practice any and all of them taking as many breaths as feel comfortable to you.
Photos by Natalie M. Jones