I am back again after another hiatus working on my own health and healing from a bit more damage in my back. It is always a good reminder of how our yogic tools can help to soothe and guide us in some of the most challenging times. During my time of recuperation I have relied heavily on relaxation practices like Yoga nidra and pranayama ( breathing practices) Now I am back in the flow so to speak practising asana, meditation and pranayama and teaching some classes each week.
During this 4 week block we have been working on developing a small sequence of postures. I am hoping that this encourages my students to have a go in their own home practice. Flow yoga has been a bit of buzz word really and many of you either have been to a flow class or even taught one. Such a wonderful word flow. It conjures up gliding, sliding, a sense of continuous smooth movement and even a babbling brook. To me the idea of flow yoga is that you are guided by the breath in moving from one posture to another as fluidly as possible. I am sure there are some fabulous flow classes out there. In the tradition in which I have been trained the only flow segment of the class would be in the practice of Salute to the Sun or Surya Namaskara or Salute to the Moon (Chandra Namasakara) I love teaching both of these sequences to my students and believe me there are many variations and modifications which can make them accessible to everybody.
Personally I think it is always best to have a good grasp of each individual posture before attempting any sequence and some of you may have been to a yoga class and discovered that it is a fast flow class and you really have no idea of the poses. You are so busy trying to work out if it’s the left foot forward or right and watching the teacher or others that getting into the moment is nigh on impossible. I have also seen how this can result in injury as people move in unsupported ways trying to catch up.
So knowing the poses is the first step. Secondly its important to feel grounded to begin with and conscious of your breathing. We use the breath to move from one pose to the next and here’s a tip for those of you new to yoga. Generally the breath is exhaled in forward bending asanas and inhaled in backward bending asana. Sometimes the breath is held out as in the change from Parvartasana or Mountain pose to the or the Eight Limb pose (Ashtanga Namaskar) in Salute to the Sun. This holding ensures that you have good abdominal support as you lower your body.
It can be quite playful to explore what poses naturally lead onto others based on the position of your body and your body’s desire to create balance. For example cat pose (Marjariasana) moves quite naturally into what we call mountain pose (Parvartasana) Remember other traditions might call this downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). In the same way your body naturally wants to move to a forward bend after a backbend. One of the reasons I love the striking cobra pose (Shashank Bhujangasana)!
There are other ways you can explore flow in your yoga not just in exploring sequences but by being mindful as you transition from your asana to your pranayama…keeping eyes downcast not jumping up to get something. Having all the things you need on hand so you have minimal disturbance to that wonderful state you have created by moving your body with the breath. In the same way as you move to your relaxation whether is be Shavasana or yoga nidra in Shavasana, move slowly with minimal disruption to yourself and others. Practice remaining fully present so that everything is done consciously.
I hope you can make time to play with your home practice, perhaps even develop a small flow sequence for yourself. If you are not sure how to set up your home practice see an earlier blog of mine “What’s happening at home?”
In the meantime be well and practice kindness to yourself and others.