Down Dog: Avoid Shoulder Impingement

3 Steps to Avoid Shoulder Impingement

in Downward-Facing Dog

Should You “Relax Your Shoulders” Away From Your Ears?

In my previous blog, “The Yoga Cue That Could Be Destroying Your Shoulders,” I explained how taking the arms up overhead while dropping our shoulders down our back could be a recipe for shoulder impingement. Many teachers use Downward Dog as a “resting pose.”  In my experience, I have found that “relaxing” in Downward Dog is quite often the reason for most shoulder issues but can easily be rectified with the 3 cues I provide in the video and photo breakdown below: 

  1. Externally Rotate the Humerus
  2. Pronate the Forearms (not directly related to the shoulder but balances out Step 1)
  3. Elevate the Scapula 

Elevation of the scapula happens when you lift your shoulder blades upward, which is like “shrugging” your shoulders, or when you excitedly reach your arms up to the sky. We naturally let our shoulders lift when our arms go up, but since many instructors cue the opposite, it is easy develop a pattern that does not serve the health of our shoulders. In addition to the verbal cue of “soften your shoulders,” gravity also causes issues if we don’t actively resist when we are in postures like Downward Dog, Forearm Stand, Handstand, or in a jump forward. My suggestion is to strengthen the muscles that elevate the scapula (upper trapezius and serratus anterior being the primary ones) in order to develop the pattern that can help to avoid shoulder impingement.

Many people cringe when I suggest strengthening the muscles that lift the shoulders up, saying something like “but my shoulders are stuck up by my ears, shouldn’t I relax them down?” The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is that muscles hold tension when they are weak. Your shoulders are likely up by your ears because of stress, rather than excess strength . . . unless you are a world champion bodybuilder . . . then ignore this. We also have muscle-holding patterns, which means that when we hold our neck, head, and arms in one position for most of the day, it will cause the muscles to become accustomed to holding those positions, and as a result you will be somewhat stuck in that shape. Simply pulling your shoulders back down will not relax the trapezius; rather, it could cause more stress, and the muscle could become more aggravated.

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BUT ISN’T IT IMPORTANT TO RELAX MY NECK?

Relaxing is undoubtedly important, and it will help release tension in your mind and body. At the same time, muscles relax from being activated properly and then released. You have certainly experienced this after engaging your muscles in a good workout or yoga class and then the incredible relaxation afterwards. Stretching a muscle can help release tension at times, but more often than not, I find active engagement or passive shortening of a muscle is far more effective. When a muscle is healthy and strong, it is better able to relax.

Follow the 3 easy steps in the video below to avoid shoulder impingement, and you will grow stronger in your trapezius muscles and rotator cuff.

Maintaining Joint Space

Research indicates that externally rotating the humerus helps to move the supraspinatus tendon away from the impingement area under the acromion process. Essentially this means that by rotating your arm bones outward (biceps turn forward) you are less likely to pinch the the soft tissues that run between your arm bone and the shoulder socket. 

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Other Helpful Muscle Engagements

Research also shows that activating both the biceps and triceps at the same time  can actually support creating more space in the glenohumeral joint  (where the arm meets the shoulder socket). You can do this by actively pushing the arms straight, and then try to squeeze your hands toward each other like a bull dog.   It is challenging to do oppositional muscle engagements so this takes a bit of exploring. First work on straightening the elbows and activating the triceps. When you squeeze your arms toward each other you will also get the added benefit of activating the adductor muscles which can also support more space in the shoulder joint.

DOES THIS APPLY TO HANDSTAND AS WELL?

Your shoulder joints do not know the difference between downward dog and handstand – aside from the gravitational pull, the shoulders are in the same alignment in downward dog as they are in handstand, this is called flexion. When the arms are flexed over head, you are at risk of impingement. The only difference is that in handstand you have to compete with gravity and so you will need to increase your efforts. You will find much more on this subject in the online course titled Handstand Part 2: Balance.

Step 1 - Externally Rotate the Arm Upper Arm Bone

Rotating the humerus externally when the arm goes up over head can help to avoid the impingement interval in the joint. One of your rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus, runs through the glenohumeral joint (under the acromion process and above the head of the humerus). This muscle helps to lift the arms up from tadasana, but because of its location it is easily pinched if the arms go over head but the shoulder blades don’t follow the movement. Downward dog is often the culprit- the weight of the body on the shoulders requires that we put effort into the posture to push the ground away, however with cues like “relax your shoulders” and “soften” we often release the appropriate muscular action required to maintain space resulting in shoulder impingement. In plain English – Externally rotate your arms (triceps rotate toward your face) and you will maintain more space in the joint and less potential for impingement. 

Step 3: Upward Rotation of The Scapula

From the outer line of your shoulder blades press through your hands into the earth. When you elevate your shoulder blades toward the ears from the outside line of the arm, the bottom wingtip of the scapula begins to rotate out and up – this is known as upward rotation of the scapula. As a result of upward rotation your shoulder blades rotates and angles itself to allow the arm bone to be overhead without a collision of bones in the joint, creating less possibility of impingement. 

Step 2: Pronate the Forearm

When externally rotating the upper arm bone you will notice that the lower arm (forearm) will go along for the ride and rotate as well. This results in an increased pressure in the outside of the hand and wrist. To evenly distribute the weight to the whole hand, simply pronate your forearm, by rotating the inner forearm and hand down toward the ground. Many teachers will stress this by asking you to press your index finger and thumb down. Depending on your range of motion in your radial ulnar joint,  you may not be able to press the inside edge of your hand down and maintain external rotation of the shoulder. My suggestion is to turn the hands slightly outward if this is the case. Learning to rotate the forearm in opposition of the upper arm bone can be challenging, but through mindful repetition you will be able to do it, and you will feel an increased strength and stability from it. To Strengthen your wrist, I highly recommend Handstand Training

The 3 Actions

While I have broken this down into 3 steps, with time and practice it can be 1 step and the 3 actions can happen all at once. To build muscle coordination it is useful to separate the actions and practice them individually. Though I created a definitive order to follow, know that it is beneficial to mix up the 3 steps and put them out of order. You may find another combination to work better for your body! The dotted red line above is to indicate the path of the bottom wing tip of the scapula. If you do not do push the bottom wing tip will wind up closer to the spine, it is helpful to video yourself to see where your shoulder blades are on your back. 

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Depression of the Scapula

Pulling your shoulders down away from the ears is the opposite of everything I have mentioned in this post, however it is an important action to work on especially for arm balances like side plank because depression creates stability when the arms are at or below shoulder height.

When Can I Relax My Shoulders?

One of the best parts about getting stronger with shoulder elevation (upward rotation) is that the muscles of your upper trapezius will become more supple and be able to relax more easily. Just like after working really hard in a yoga class you feel that complete relaxation in your body, each of your muscles experience that after being strengthened. There are plenty of opportunities to relax your shoulders down your back – just not when you reach your arms overhead. So when you are sitting at your chair you can think shoulders move slightly back and shoulder blades relax downward. When you are in a strong posture like crow pose and your upper arms are not over head, you can even work on strengthening the muscles of depression of the scapula. My philosophy on the body is that there are no wrong actions or muscle engagements, there are just appropriate and inappropriate times to use them.

A great rule of thumb you can take with you: when in doubt just let your shoulders follow your hands – if the hands go up, let your shoulders go up, if they go down let them go down, if you reach forward let them go forward, etc. Enjoy your exploration, thank you for stopping by!

-Matt

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Deep Core Work for Greater Opening

heart opener

BREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA

It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads to how we breathe off of our yoga mats. Quite frankly though, it doesn’t mean that it will be an improved experience. There may be an expectation that if we integrate various breathwork practices consistently, then we will see improvement. Even if we do see improvement, there’s always room to grow. We can learn more, and we can even take action, but how much of a deep dive are we willing to take? This is why we are fortunate to have teachers like Matt who go deeper into the mechanics of breath. In today’s video, he demonstrates how to actually strengthen the deepest core layer of our abdominals (the transverse abdominis, or TVA) via breathwork and a pose called Chapasana.

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WHAT IS BREATHWORK?

First, let’s gain a clearer understanding of breathwork. In simpler terms, breathwork encompasses a variety of breathing techniques that may involve pace, rhythm, and/or specific patterns where the inhales and exhales vary. We may also encounter the word pranayama, which is the Sanskrit term for breathwork. More deeply, pranayama is also one of the 8 limbs of yoga from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Discussions surrounding pranayama may include energy flow and/or energy management for body and mind. As we go deeper, we begin to learn that it’s imperative to spend time on strengthening the muscles that are involved with the mechanics of breath to actualize the positive outcomes we desire. These positive outcomes may include more ease and greater capacity of breath.

WATCH THE VIDEO

BREATHWORK & CHAPASANA: DEEP CORE WORK FOR GREATER OPENING

THE MECHANICS OF BREATH

In a recent live video from Matt’s Instagram page, he thoroughly breaks down the mechanics of breathing. This is what I’m referring to when I say that Matt goes beyond simply teaching a technique. What we actually receive is why and how the mechanics of breath are vital to our yoga practice. Within the context of Chapasana, we not only learn how to strengthen the TVA with a “diaphragmatic breathing” technique, but we also gain insight into how to stretch the more superficial core muscles (rectus abdominis), allowing for increased space for breath capacity and opening within the backbend itself. All of this translates into how it also connects with our extremities (through its impact on the serratus anterior and scapulae) for greater shoulder mobility in the posture. Examining breathwork and Chapasana as a unit helps us grasp the importance of breathwork in any posture.

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CORE CONNECTION THROUGH BREATH

In the video, Matt demonstrates a diaphragmatic breathing technique. The technique lays the foundation for Chapasana in that we need to have the ability to engage the TVA at specific points during the execution of the pose. Engaging the TVA within the context of breathwork means that we are pulling the belly back during a forceful exhale. In the live video I previously mentioned, Matt explains that during the exhalation process, a pressure is created within the torso by the squeezing in of the ribcage, intercostal muscles, and TVA. The air is forced out of the lungs in the process, which involves the diaphragm relaxing, expanding, and returning to its dome-like shape at the base of the ribcage.

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CHAPASANA

Practicing the breath technique from today’s video in repetitive rounds is what helps to strengthen the core and muscles involved in respiration.

How is this relevant in Chapasana? Even though there is less focus on the backbend today, it’s almost impossible not to achieve greater opening. First, Matt creates a softening on an inhale for greater expansion in the front body. What’s simply incredible though is that you’ll see that expansion multiplied with the exhale and action of engaging the TVA. He pulls his belly back and up, which drives the ribcage out to the sides and up towards his shoulders. That’s the link to the extremities. This expansion leads to further spreading of the serratus anterior, creating more movement in the scapula and ultimately a better reach to grab the foot. It’s unbelievable to witness the transformation, all from the catalyst of the breath. 

The Breath Of Fire Immersion starts this Friday.  You won’t want to miss this opportunity to deepen your relationship to your core and the impact it has on the rest of your body.

See you on the mat!  

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Video Extracted From: Strength Immersion

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Learn To Fly In Side Crow

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Get to the Core with 3 Variations

ARM BALANCE

LEARN TO FLY IN SIDE CROW

Getting to the core of this arm balance will awaken a potential in your body that you may not be aware is even present. Learning to fly in Side Crow actually goes deeper than going through the motions of different variations. If you’ve been practicing with Matt, then you know that he teaches and applies very specific techniques within a posture and/or its variations; these techniques show you how to intellectually approach the execution of a yoga posture. The 3 variations you’ll see in today’s video will show you how to properly activate the muscles (obliques, abductor group, adductors, and hip flexors) in order to tap into the potential that awaits you.

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BREATH OF FIRE

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  • Access your core in arm balances, heart openers, twists, forward folds, inversions, and more
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  • Each class will include one pranayama (breathwork practice) and several core strengtheners
  • Access your core muscles: deep, superficial, anterior, posterior, and lateral 
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

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THE 2 MAIN ACTIONS

The clips from today’s video are taken from the Anatomy of Arm Balances immersion. In the full class, Matt invites you to step back from balancing in the posture so you can actually connect with your core muscles. How is this done? It’s the positioning of the arm that’s furthest away from your body that allows the core connection to take place. You’re left with no choice but to utilize the obliques to gain height. Action #1 then is to hike the top hip up towards the same-side shoulder (obliques and gluteus medius activation). Action #2 requires the activation of the hip flexors. Here, you’re pulling your knees towards your chest while energetically pulling your bottom knee (if it’s the right) towards your right shoulder. This common thread runs through all 3 variations in some form. Let’s examine the techniques involved.

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LEARN TO FLY IN SIDE CROW: GET TO THE CORE WITH 3 VARIATIONS

SIDE CROW: NO PROPS

Starting with this variation provides a nice baseline for you to see where you may need to place more emphasis. You’ll see how wide the distance is between Matt’s hands. Spreading your hands far apart forces you to lift the hips up as high as possible, which turns on the upper obliques. Dropping the hips (which is common) significantly minimizes your use of the obliques. These 2 main actions, along with leaning more forward and of course gripping your fingers into the ground, are the keys. If you are challenged anywhere along the chain of events, dial it back and work on the sensations of the activations (e.g., hands wide while lifting and lowering the hips with a contraction in the obliques). Still unsure what to feel? Have a look at the variations with props.

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SIDE CROW WITH A STRAP

This Side Crow variation with a strap is a great option to explore if you require more awareness of the upper obliques. This particular variation also places weight on the activation of the tensor fasciae latae (TFL). The TFL is both a hip flexor and internal rotator. The internal rotation helps to fire up the abductors of the bottom leg. Doing this creates more stability and provides greater access to the posture. Adding a strap doesn’t make it easier, but what you will receive is feedback. Pressing into the strap is like pressing into the guiding hand of a yoga teacher. You won’t be able to ignore the sensations here, I promise you. The abductor muscles will speak to you, and it will be quite the conversation!

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SIDE CROW WITH A BLOCK

Lastly, Matt demonstrates Side Crow with a block. Placing a yoga block between your thighs or shins helps you to squeeze everything into the center. Here you’ll feel the adductors while you try to hold the block in place. This option is closer to the first variation as regards shape, so it’s a great one to incorporate into your practice to encourage the 2 main actions with your legs hugged in towards one another.

EXPLORE AND INTEGRATE

In conclusion, unlearning some of the habits you’ve patterned that don’t require you to focus on just how strong can become in Side Crow will pay off in the long run. When the effort is appropriate, it is what drives you forward—as Matt always teaches, “explore and integrate.” Thinking about the possibilities available to you is actually pretty exciting. When you focus on building strength, you can learn to fly in Side Crow. After strength, weightlessness and lightness in the posture follow. A challenging arm balance like Side Crow will then emanate more ease than effort.

Register for Matt’s February immersion, Breath of Fire. This immersion will go deeper into how you can access your core muscles in order to progress in the awareness of your body and your practice.

See you on the mat!  

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Anatomy Of Arm Balances

Yoga for Core and Breathwork

BREATH OF FIRE

  • Moderate Vinyasa-style classes
  • Core strengthening & integration
  • Master your breath with pranayama practices
  • Access your core in arm balances, heart openers, twists, forward folds, inversions, and more
  • Learn where and how to breathe in challenging postures
  • Each class will include one pranayama (breathwork practice) and several core strengtheners
  • Access your core muscles: deep, superficial, anterior, posterior, and lateral 
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

$148.00 $98.00

Continue Learning

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THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
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Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency in Your Flows

Workshop These Vinyasa Transitions

FLUIDITY

IS IT “FIND” OR “CREATE” FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS?

It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more appropriate word to use here because it implies that you have to take action to make fluency happen. It’s vital to be very intentional about your approach when you are integrating something into your life, and it’s no different with regard to your yoga practice on the mat. Matt teaches specific techniques and strategies to make it easier for you to be intentional. Sometimes you have the yearning, but you don’t know what steps to take. In today’s video, you’ll see how Matt workshops how to utilize strength, the creative use of props, and harmony between breath and movement for a perfect equation to create fluency in your flows.

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

NAVIGATING TRANSITIONS

A Vinyasa-style practice is associated with almost seamless, flowing-type movements on your mat. The synchronicity of movement with breath elicits a certain pace and a “push” quality, since you are always looking ahead or moving towards the next posture. Doing this requires a degree of strength in order to flow with confidence.

It’s also important to understand that moving with control and elegance on your mat is so much more than the aesthetics. You can’t deny that watching someone gracefully move across their mat is beautiful, but what you’re actually witnessing is the time and effort that has gone into developing strength. Navigating your way through a sequence of postures requires not only focus in the moment but also anticipation of what is coming next.

The clips from today’s video are from Matt’s MOVE Immersion. In the clips, he teaches you, with explicit instruction, how to transition from Warrior II to Half Moon Pose and how to Jump Back into Chaturanga from Standing Splits. Woven into the instruction of both transitions is how to utilize strength and how the power of props helps to pattern the fluidity of these transitions into your nervous system.

WATCH THE VIDEO

CREATE FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS: WORKSHOP THESE YOGA TRANSITIONS

WARRIOR II TO HALF MOON

First, let’s look at Warrior II to Half Moon. I would say that this is a fairly common transition, but without a deeper understanding of how to utilize your strength for balance, it can easily fall apart. For you to learn how to find fluency, Matt first advises you to come to the long side of your mat. From here, you can root down into your mat with your front foot. Next, he instructs you to take your back foot off of the mat. Doing this will help with the glide that’s necessary to “push” forward into Half Moon. What’s the best way to glide? The prop that’s used here is a sock on your back foot to glide across a hardwood floor or similar surface. The way to home in on strength here is to activate your gluteus muscles. Rooting down through your front heel encourages the activation of the glutes in the front leg. This firming down supports your ability to neatly drag or glide your back foot towards the front in order to lift into Half Moon. What happens when you return to your mat? You’ll see how Matt progresses you to the point where you can eventually take the contact of the back foot away from the floor completely. The return to Warrior II is simply the reversal of all of the steps. What you’re left with is powerful yet free-flowing movement that appears weightless.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

JUMP BACK FROM STANDING SPLITS

This transition exhibits an explosive amount of power. One of the keys to unleashing the power for the lightness of the float in the jump back is to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes. You’ll see how Matt utilizes a block to maintain the activation in these muscle groups. To create the foundation, you’ll also use socks as a prop to learn to pattern a smooth sweep back into Chaturanga (the progression here happens without the block). The lift of the top leg in Standing Splits requires glute and hamstring strength. Maintaining this lift while jumping back is what contributes to the buoyancy. Of course, the upper-body strength required is not to be neglected, but breaking it down and layering each aspect will assist in finding the fluency required here. In the video, you’ll also want to pay attention to Matt’s hand placement when he’s setting up “Standing Splits preparation.” This detail is essential for preparing the upper body to harness more strength.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

LET IT ALL GO

Finding fluency in your flows means that you’ve found this beautiful collision, where strength meets softness. There is a level of push and action while giving over to the flow of momentum. Fluency is accessible and possible.  Cultivating strength is the foundation. The use of props can assist with strength and create ease. It’s true that your breath anchors it all, and it’s also what helps you to let go and flow freely.

There’s still time to register for MOVE, where Matt shares a plethora of techniques and tools to move with grace.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Clips Extracted From: Move Immersion

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

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Create Fluency in Your Flows Workshop These Vinyasa TransitionsFLUIDITYIS IT "FIND" OR "CREATE" FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS? It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more...

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

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Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

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When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
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  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Build Strength & Endurance

Build Strength and Endurance

Infuse Calisthenics Into Your Yoga Practice

resilience

STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE WITH CALISTHENICS

There are both simple and more complex ways of infusing calisthenics into your yoga practice, especially as you get stronger and build upon various skills. First of all, movements associated with “basic” calisthenic exercises are already woven in many ways into asana practices such as Vinyasa and Ashtanga styles of yoga. What we need to understand, however, is that alongside the more traditional approaches, there are creative and innovative ways of incorporating calisthenics into our physical practice. Ultimately, what we are building over time is strength and endurance.

Matt breaks down exactly how to do this in the clips that you’ll see in today’s video, from his current MOVE Immersion. What is the reason for wanting to increase strength and endurance? Well, key components of overall health include both. If you consistently practice calisthenic exercises and/or incorporate them into your yoga practice, it’s inevitable that you’ll develop increased strength and endurance both physically and mentally.  

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

WHAT ARE CALISTHENICS?

When you hear the term calisthenics, I wouldn’t be surprised if what comes to mind are some seriously strong folks doing pull-ups, chin-ups, a rude amount of push-ups or some “crazy” complicated movements requiring what may appears to be an obscene amount of coordination. You wouldn’t be wrong. The idea of incorporating calisthenics into your movement practice can be quite intimidating. The good news is that there are entry points, and they may be more accessible than you think.

Essentially, calisthenics are defined as a form of exercise where you’re using your own body weight for resistance. Exercises often associated with calisthenics are pull-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and push-ups, to name a few. How many times have you done chaturanga “yoga push-ups” in your practice?  How many times have you moved in and out of Malasana? Runner’s Lunge? Can you see the crossover? There is a great deal of benefit both physically and mentally. Let’s have a look.

WATCH THE VIDEO

BUILD STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE: INFUSE CALISTHENICS INTO YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & ENDURANCE

Without a doubt, calisthenics are going to help you to build a solid and strong foundation. Incorporating them into your asana practice means that your approach on your mat will be an intense one. To acquire the benefits of muscle  strength and/or cardiovascular endurance, there must be repetition and vigor in your output of each drill or exercise, with minimal rest in between.  

Although calisthenics have an impact on all muscle fibers, they are said to primarily work the slow-twitch fibers (type 1 fibers). These muscle fibers are associated with endurance. Because exercises like push-ups, lunges, and squats typically involve repetition, you can see how they are easily incorporated in the context of an asana practice. The physical demand and strain on your muscle tissues creates the stimulus for them to break down and therefore adapt and ultimately grow. In your yoga practice, the capacity at which you are working does not equate to muscular hypertrophy but to a remarkable amount of strength and integrity in your body.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

MENTAL STRENGTH & ENDURANCE

The attention to skill and technique requires a great deal of focus and concentration. Depending on the level of coordination and difficulty involved in a particular exercise, you’re also building resilience and mental toughness. The drive to complete and “push through” various calisthenic exercises means that you’re also fueling yourself with confidence. You’re actually proving to yourself that you can confront the opposition in your mind that may be telling you that you can’t possibly go any further. As long as you are free from injury and pain, taking action and pushing through is what actually allows you to experience benefits like increased focus, confidence, and tenacity. The resilience you build on your mat will ultimately lead to the same type of resilience in other areas of your life.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

FIVE WAYS TO INFUSE CALISTHENICS INTO YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

In today’s video, Matt outlines 5 ways to infuse calisthenics into your yoga practice. He includes both simplified and more complex options.  

First, Chaturanga Dandasana is great for strengthening your core, chest, triceps, shoulders, and the muscles in your lower body. In the clip, Matt demonstrates the transition from Downward-Facing Dog to Plank (on knees or on toes), then he doubles the Chaturanga before coming all the way down to the ground. This may be a “simpler” way to increase intensity and muscle strength, but if you are not used to using this transition, it will take some time to feel stronger and more confident in your execution.

Second, Matt demonstrates a Boat Pose to Chaturanga transition. He breaks this one down into stages in which you can slowly build your way up to a full jump back into Chaturanga. This exercise will undoubtedly challenge your cardiovascular system and build more heat in your body. It also requires more coordination and timing as you progress into the jump back.

Third are the Adductor Slides With Socks and Blocks. This one is particularly innovative: Not only do you get the cardiovascular benefit, but you also build strength in your adductors (a muscle group that can often be neglected). In the full class from which this clip is extracted, Matt repeats the drill with a timer. He encourages you to perform it quickly while paying attention to very precise articulations in the hips and feet.

The fourth calisthenic exercise involves Plank—you might call this one a Side Plank (Vasisthasana) Crunch. Here, the focus is on strengthening your oblique muscles. It requires a great deal of muscle strength to balance while holding up your body weight and performing the “crunch” in the side body with control. This exercise definitely creates fire in the body! You will feel the elevation of your heart rate. 

Lastly, Matt demonstrates another Plank variation. This one might be referred to as Side Plank (Vasisthasana) With Adductor Leg Lift. In this exercise, you are again strengthening your oblique muscles but adding in the strengthening of your adductor muscles. If you’re looking for a challenge, THIS—IS—THE—ONE! Again, the movements may appear to be quite innocent, but there is always more than meets the eye.

TRANSFORM YOUR PRACTICE

You can see that the intricacy of all of these exercises requires mindfulness, focus, and physical intensity on your part.

When you watch the video, you’ll see how Matt specifically outlines the techniques for each drill in order for you to gain the maximum benefit. This is important because what might appear to be a minor change in body positioning (e.g., the articulation of the feet as they move in and out in the Adductor Slides) can have a drastic impact on the experience within the exercises and the actual muscle groups you’re affecting.

All of the clips are from Matt’s MOVE Immersion. In each and every class, there are so many ways that Matt teaches how to incorporate calisthenics, for strength and endurance, into your yoga practice.   

If you want to practice with more strength and grace, then this is definitely the immersion to sign up for.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Clips Extracted From: Move Immersion

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

read more
Learn To Fly In Side Crow

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Create Fluency In Your Flows

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Create Fluency in Your Flows Workshop These Vinyasa TransitionsFLUIDITYIS IT "FIND" OR "CREATE" FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS? It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more...

read more
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Build Strength and Endurance Infuse Calisthenics Into Your Yoga PracticeresilienceSTRENGTH AND ENDURANCE WITH CALISTHENICS There are both simple and more complex ways of infusing calisthenics into your yoga practice, especially as you get stronger and build upon...

read more
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

read more
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Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

Five Drills for Greater Access

flying splits

EKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE

The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and poise. Strength is required for more than holding the posture; it also contributes to the element of ease. There’s no doubt that this arm balance is a challenging one. If you believe that confidence is essential for a posture like this one, then you’re right! What’s appealing about working towards a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 is that you develop confidence through the preparation. How do you prepare? In today’s video, Matt demonstrates 5 drills that will help you develop the strength and poise that is expressed in the pose.  

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

GROUNDWORK WITH YOGA BLOCKS

Breaking up the actions between the upper and lower body can really help to refine the execution of Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2. In the first drill, Matt demonstrates an option with yoga blocks set up underneath your chest to relieve some of the effort in your arms. Doing this helps you focus on the techniques utilized in the hips and legs, which create the height and length required for balancing the posture.  

You’ll see that the first drill sets the foundation for all of the drills in the video. 

Here are the core steps in Drill #1:

(left leg forward)

  1. With hands wide and slightly behind either side of the blocks, place your left leg onto your upper left arm
  2. Lean forward and place your chest on a block or blocks (depending on the height required for your body)
  3. Create an anterior tilt of your pelvis while internally rotating the upper thigh of your left leg
  4. Take the option to straighten the front leg—your back knee may stay on the mat 

In the 2nd drill, you are repeating the same actions as above; however, you are adding on by straightening the back leg. Matt demonstrates this with socks on, making it easier to practice by gliding your back foot on the floor rather than on a yoga mat. This is the first step in creating those elegant lines.

WATCH THE VIDEO

EKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: FIVE DRILLS FOR GREATER ACCESS

STATIC ENTRY WITHOUT YOGA BLOCKS

Drill #3 invites you to attempt entry into Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 from a static position, without the use blocks. Matt reminds you that entering the posture from a static position is muscularly demanding and that without the help of the blocks, it’s vital to create more stability in your upper body. If you’ve practiced with Matt before, then you know that one of the essential elements of an arm balance is to grip the ground with your fingers. As you grip the ground in Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2, it’s imperative that you lean forward to offset the weight in your lower body. While executing the actions of the hips (anterior tilt of the pelvis and internal rotation of the upper thigh bone), another action will help to solidify the pose: squeezing your thigh into your arm. This will strengthen the adductors and create maximum stability. From there, you can start to lengthen the legs out in opposite directions.  

Practicing this posture in socks and on a hardwood floor can be extremely helpful in emphasizing a more graceful extension and easier access. Matt also offers the option of bending the knee of the back leg in order to gain a little more height before you straighten the leg out.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

STATIC ENTRY WITH YOGA BLOCKS

In this variation of Drill #3, the blocks support the back leg. The core actions remain the same, and you’ll see in the video that Matt stacks 2 yoga blocks on top of each other. Once you have both sent your weight forward into your hands and lengthened your front leg, you can take a deep bend of your back leg (while your back knee is resting on the blocks). You can experiment with either keeping the knee down or furthering the play with balance and lifting your back knee up away from the blocks.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

ENTRY WITH MOMENTUM

In Drill #4, you’ll explore coming into Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 with momentum. This allows you to practice a more dynamic way of entering the posture, which requires a great deal of coordination. Matt explains that less effort is required of the muscular system, but you’ll notice that you’ll require a slight pull back to keep yourself from falling. This means that the gripping of the fingers into the ground will also be key in maintaining balance.   

Here are the core steps for entry with momentum:

(left side)

  1. Begin in a short Downward-Facing Dog
  2. Lift your left leg up
  3. In one continuous motion, follow the steps to place your left leg on your left arm while creating the actions in your pelvis, upper thigh, and adductors

Drill #5 reintroduces the yoga blocks to get you started at a higher height. Matt places 2 blocks, stacked one on top of the other, underneath the foot of the leg that will extend behind you. This creates a “shelf” to help you gather greater height and momentum for the movement of your front leg. A tip is to place the blocks more directly behind the leg that will eventually come forward. You’ll see in the video how this really informs your ability to shift your weight more forward. 

ONCE YOU KNOW, YOU CAN FLOW

Matt advises you to practice these drills and variations repeatedly. As you experiment with them, you’ll build strength and confidence in the posture itself, and you’ll also build confidence in how you move your body as a whole. Repeating these drills creates an imprint in your body and puts your body “in the know,” or creates muscle memory. Once your body knows, you can release a little bit of focus as regards technique and allow yourself to flow and move between postures with more grace and ease. It’s not that you leave technique behind, but you develop a trust in your body’s ability to move with a sense of assuredness. You’ll access Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 with more strength and poise, and you’ll reveal a seamlessness in your practice that helps you find your flow.

You’ll want to sign up for Matt’s Move Immersion to dive deeper into your movement potential.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Vinyasa Immersion

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

read more
Learn To Fly In Side Crow

Learn To Fly In Side Crow

Learn to Fly in Side Crow Get to the Core with 3 VariationsARM BALANCELEARN TO FLY IN SIDE CROW Getting to the core of this arm balance will awaken a potential in your body that you may not be aware is even present. Learning to fly in Side Crow actually goes deeper...

read more
Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency in Your Flows Workshop These Vinyasa TransitionsFLUIDITYIS IT "FIND" OR "CREATE" FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS? It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more...

read more
Build Strength & Endurance

Build Strength & Endurance

Build Strength and Endurance Infuse Calisthenics Into Your Yoga PracticeresilienceSTRENGTH AND ENDURANCE WITH CALISTHENICS There are both simple and more complex ways of infusing calisthenics into your yoga practice, especially as you get stronger and build upon...

read more
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

read more
Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Skillful Transition Techniques Simplified

movement

SEATED JUMP THROUGHS

It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you move. It’s easy to find yourself more focused on the alignment, shape, and/or position of your body within a specific asana. This is not without good reason, because there is definitely a lot going on in a given posture, especially when you are considering when and how to create the appropriate muscle engagements in order to maximize the posture’s benefits. How you move and transition between each posture, however, also carries a great deal of weight within your yoga practice. In other words, what happens between each posture is extremely important. Moreover, your ability to control your body in order to maintain balance and safely move on your mat translates to how you move when you are off of the mat.

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

HOW ARE TRANSITIONS IN YOGA CONNECTED TO HEALTH?

Seated jump throughs are often used in Vinyasa- and Ashtanga-style practices to enter into seated postures more smoothly. Given the nature of these practices, which are more dynamic, this comes as no surprise. The pairing of movement with breath requires you to move with more “flow.” More vigorous practices like these provide benefits like increased strength or coordination and may even offer cardiovascular benefit. The benefits are not limited to the physical; these practices also improve cognitive function. Learning how to execute seated jump throughs offers much more than graceful ease on the mat.

WATCH THE VIDEO

SMOOTH SEATED JUMP THROUGHS: SKILLFUL TRANSITION TECHNIQUES SIMPLIFIED

MOVEMENT & CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE

Practicing a skill such as a seated jump through requires more sophisticated movement and repetition. Even if it is a “simple” transition for you, doing it repetitively throughout your practice will definitely build heat in your body and increase your heart rate. If seated jump through is a more ambitious endeavor, then practicing the skills Matt breaks down will both build heat and provide the cardiovascular benefit of this type of movement.

“It is widely accepted that regular physical activity is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Frequent exercise is robustly associated with a decrease in cardiovascular mortality as well as the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Sep 28;5:135. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135. PMID: 30324108; PMCID: PMC6172294.

When you watch the video, you’ll see the layering within the drills Matt offers. The effort involved in practicing the drills for the transition, along with this style of  practice as a whole, will undoubtedly challenge you physically. Consistently practicing this way is the key to unlocking the benefits.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

MOVEMENT & COGNITIVE FUNCTION

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is largely responsible for memory and learning. The researchers in this study “found the volume of the left hippocampus to be significantly greater among yoga-practitioners compared to age- and sex-matched controls with similar physical activity and fitness levels.”

Gothe, Neha P. et al. ‘Yoga Effects on Brain Health: A Systematic Review of the Current Literature’. 1 Jan. 2019 : 105 – 122.

The study finds that specifically asana has a significant impact in this area. Understanding this confirms the importance of movement and its impact on both the physical and the mental.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

SKILLFUL EXECUTION OF A SEATED JUMP THROUGH

As previously mentioned, Matt layers on each skill in order to make the practice of seated jump throughs more accessible.  

In the video, you’ll see that Matt advises you to start from a “shortened Downward Dog” position, with hands wider than usual. From there, you’ll place one leg in front in order to cross at your shins as you glide your feet forward and then gently drop to a seated position. You have the option to then send both legs forward in order to start imprinting the full pattern of movement into your nervous system. In order to take the drill to the next step, you have the option to jump into the cross-legged seated position (important to note that you should land on the tops of your feet). This undoubtedly makes it more active (increasing your heart rate and the cardiovascular component). What is more, when you come to the tops of your feet, you’ll see how Matt demonstrates a play of buoyancy in the hips. This balance on your hands is also a great preparation for arm balances and for the strength required in the seated jump through when you start sending your legs forward with more fluidity.

Repeatedly practicing the skills required for seated jump throughs will only refine your movement and help you tap into the physical and mental benefits. There is so much more to uncover, as this only skims the surface. 

Register for Matt’s next immersion, called Move, so that you may delve into your ability to move with ease and confidence on and off of the mat.

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Vinyasa Immersion

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

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Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

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Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

Prepare for Seated Forward Fold

staff pose

SEATED VS. STANDING DANDASANA

Seated vs. Standing Dandasana (Staff Pose)—why compare the two? Not only are we going to examine how they differ, but we’re also going to dive in and really look at the parallels between these 2 yoga postures and how they inform one another. There is no way around the foundations of your yoga practice, and in today’s video, Matt demonstrates Seated versus Standing Dandasana. Not only are they substantial enough on their own, but they also serve as an important preparation for Seated Forward Fold. Matt also intricately demonstrates Seated Forward Fold at the end of the video, so that you’ll be able to see the direct correlation among all of these postures. Let’s take a look at how you can level up these foundational postures.

TWISTS & FOLDS

TWISTS & FOLDS

  • Strengthen core muscles of rotation and side bends
  • Improve spinal mobility
  • Improve spinal flexion for seated postures
  • Strengthen your back and deep core
  • Access greater flexibility of the hips for seated postures
  • Classes will bring you to a sweat and back down to a relaxed state
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $138.00

PASSIVE VERSUS ACTIVE FLEXIBILITY

Unless you have been exposed to practicing asana in a way that offers a balance between active and passive flexibility, it’s likely that your body is widening the gap between the two. What is the difference between active and passive flexibility?  

Active flexibility happens when a particular joint moves through a range of motion without any external assistance (e.g., a yoga strap, wall, or chair). The opposite is true for passive flexibility, which occurs when you are utilizing an external force (including gravity) to explore a given range of motion.

For example, Standing Forward Fold, when approached more passively, is not necessarily the best preparation for Seated Forward Fold because a greater amount of muscle engagement is imperative to safely and successfully execute the postures.  

However, it’s not just about the postures. In his classes, Matt teaches us about the benefits of learning how to be more conscious of how and when to engage and release muscles. Being more conscious and intentional in this way means that the communication between your nervous system, brain, and body has become more intelligent and capable. Your ability both to move more dynamically and to hold postures/positions on and off the mat has multiplied because you are more proactive, rather than reactive. This also means that you have narrowed the gap between the two, and your body becomes more willing to surrender passively after you have spent time actively engaging muscles. This is where Seated versus Standing Dandasana comes in.

WATCH THE VIDEO

SEATED VERSUS STANDING DANDASANA: PREPARE FOR SEATED FORWARD FOLD

SEATED DANDASANA

As Matt demonstrates in the video, Seated Dandasana (Staff Pose) is a great precursor to Seated Forward Fold because of the muscle engagements involved. 

One of the first steps involved in Seated Dandasana is to sit more upright. This involves lifting your belly in and up to engage your transversus abdominis. Once you’re sitting more upright, you’re also getting your back muscles involved, muscles like the quadratus lumborum (QL), particularly as you bring your pelvis into more of an anterior tilt. This anterior tilt, in conjunction with maintaining a strong lift of your chest and belly while keeping your legs straight, really helps to fire up your hip flexors. When you watch the video, you’ll see that Matt outlines a couple of key actions that also contribute to this hip-flexor firing. Those actions are creating dorsiflexion in your feet and pulling your kneecaps up in order to support the action of drawing your femur bones in towards the hip sockets (this helps to sustain and deepen the engagement of the hip flexors). All of these actions within Seated Dandasana help to create strength in a part of the body, the hip flexors, that is neglected in many. That alone validates the importance of this posture as one to incorporate into your practice on a regular basis. It equally validates why it offers excellent preparation for Seated Forward Fold.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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  • Deepen your yoga practice
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  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

STANDING DANDASANA

In Standing Dandasana, there are wonderful opportunities to work on a great deal of muscle engagement for the hip flexors; this may also allow time for a greater examination of how to engage the lower back muscles. In the video, you’ll see how Matt pushes his heels out isometrically in order to activate the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), which is a hip flexor. Additionally, the placement of your hands really informs how much sensation and strength you can create in the lower back. Lengthening your arms all the way out in front of you increases the effort and dance between keeping your sit bones lifted (which is the same anterior tilt required for Seated Dandasana and Forward Fold) while maintaining the lift of the chest. This is surely a recipe for the firing of the QL and erector spinae muscles.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

HIP FLEXORS & HIP FLEXION

As already explained, one of the most important actions for Seated Forward Fold is hip flexion (the thighs moving closer to the chest, closing the hip joint). We’ve also established that hip flexor strength is essential for Seated Forward Fold. When attempting to gain strength of the hip flexors when it comes to Seated Forward Fold, you need to apply your understanding of the difference between active and passive flexibility. Allowing gravity alone to create the shape of Seated Forward Fold would likely simply create frustration due to the length of time it takes to see the results of going deeper into the posture. With the development of hip flexor strength and the practice of the articulation of the pelvis in postures like Seated and Standing Dandasana, you simply can’t go wrong when it comes to Seated Forward Fold.

SEATED FORWARD FOLD

After exploring Seated and Standing Dandasana from the perspective Matt offers, your body will display its readiness. During the setup in the video, you’ll see where Matt marries the passive and active in this posture. You’ll tap into the strength of your lower back with the same lift of the belly and chest along with the anterior tilt of the pelvis. Just like in Standing Dandasana, you’ll push your heels out isometrically, which will internally rotate your upper thighs, switching on TFL.  Once you’ve performed the actions you practiced in Seated Dandasana, that is, plugging the femur bones into the hip joint and pulling the kneecaps up, you can lean more forward. This is the crucial point at which you may begin to relax your back muscles and transition to a more passive state in the posture. The negotiation that takes place in the body, however, is that while your back relaxes, you’re still maintaining the suctioning of the quadriceps and tensioning of the hip flexors. This creates an exciting conversation within your body. It creates a marriage between active and passive, which Matt describes as the nervous system more fully participating in the experience and improving the health and functionality of your muscular system overall.  

Practicing in this way unleashes the potential functionality of your body. Registering for this month’s immersion will take you on a journey of deeper understanding, and it will help bring new life to foundational postures like the ones examined here. 

You can register for Twists & Folds here.

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Twists & Folds

MOVE

  • Access your movement potential
  • Sweat and raise your heart rate
  • Master your breath/movement coordination
  • Increase mobility at all major joints
  • Learn to gracefully transition between postures
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Strengthen your hips, back, shoulders, and core
  • Improve your balance
  • Each class will raise your heart rate, bring you to a sweat, and return you back to a relaxed state of mind and body
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $98.00

Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

read more
Learn To Fly In Side Crow

Learn To Fly In Side Crow

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read more
Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency in Your Flows Workshop These Vinyasa TransitionsFLUIDITYIS IT "FIND" OR "CREATE" FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS? It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more...

read more
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Build Strength and Endurance Infuse Calisthenics Into Your Yoga PracticeresilienceSTRENGTH AND ENDURANCE WITH CALISTHENICS There are both simple and more complex ways of infusing calisthenics into your yoga practice, especially as you get stronger and build upon...

read more
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

read more
Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Transversus Abdominis

Transversus Abdominis

Connect to Your Core With This Twist Technique

spinal rotation

CONNECT TO YOUR CORE

Once you are exposed to transformational techniques for your yoga practice, there’s no turning back. In the context of asana, these techniques open you up to a whole new world and perspective as to what is possible on the mat. Techniques like the one Matt offers in today’s video provide an awakening within your body and help you truly connect to your core while exploring twisting postures. Connecting to some of your deeper core muscles may feel elusive, but it is indeed possible. The transversus abdominis (TVA) is at the deepest layer of the core; when active, it can create spinal rotation, and it also stabilizes the spine. How is it possible to transform your experience and more deeply connect to your core?

TWISTS & FOLDS

TWISTS & FOLDS

  • Strengthen core muscles of rotation and side bends
  • Improve spinal mobility
  • Improve spinal flexion for seated postures
  • Strengthen your back and deep core
  • Access greater flexibility of the hips for seated postures
  • Classes will bring you to a sweat and back down to a relaxed state
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $138.00

UDDIYANA BANDHA AND TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS

The transversus abdominis can be activated on both the inhale and the exhale. Activation on an exhalation is called Uddiyana Bandha. Bandha means “lock” or “hold” and serves the body by stabilizing it during your practice. Uddiyana Bandha is the abdominal lock. Drawing the belly in and up is the necessary action to create the lock; this is exactly what engages the TVA. Contracting the transversus abdominis compresses the abdomen, and this is the first step in creating a deeper connection to your core. It’s still important to allow prana to flow! A deliberate mind-muscle connection must be established in order to feel and maintain stability while sustaining the flow of breath. As always, setting a foundation for the nervous system will enable you to direct your brain and body to respond to the action you desire—in this case, it’s spinal rotation. How can you continue to prepare your core for twisting postures?

WATCH THE VIDEO

TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS:  CONNECT TO YOUR CORE WITH THIS TWIST TECHNIQUE

KAPALABHATI PRANAYAMA AND CONNECTING TO YOUR CORE

One of the most relatable cues to begin to understand Kapalabhati Pranayama is to compare it to coughing, which is also an appropriate cue in order to understand TVA activation. This does not mean that you have to cough in order to activate TVA, but it helps to feel how the belly pulls back and that it’s a quick, firm action.

Today’s clip is extracted from Matt’s current immersion, Twists & Folds. At the beginning of the class, Matt guides you through Kapalabhati, which is the practice of “forcefully” breathing in and out in a repetitive manner. The exhale happens via pulling your belly back. The purpose of starting the practice in this way is to begin to wake up and tone the TVA. It’s these more subtle energetic practices that lay the foundation for you to connect to your core. This connection to your core has the potential for you to increase spinal mobility and go deeper into twisting postures.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

TWISTING POSTURES

“The abdominal muscles are the core prime movers in the twisting postures.”

Long, Ray. The Key Muscles of Yoga, Vol. 1 . Bandha Yoga Publications LLC. 2005. Pg.126

Bringing TVA to the forefront of your awareness is important when utilizing the twist technique from today’s video. Connecting to your core, the TVA specifically, also requires an awareness of the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum muscles. These muscles lift the torso and aid in creating an anterior tilt of the pelvis. Without this upright position, it’s impossible to truly access the lifting and pulling back of your belly. This awareness is key to being a full participant when engaging in twisting postures in your yoga practice. You’ll be guiding your body, rather than having your body guide you. For example, if there are vulnerable instabilities in the hips, utilizing the strength in your core muscles will offer a sense of steadiness and safety in any given twisting posture. How is this expressed in Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)?

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS (TVA) TWIST TECHNIQUE: ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA

A seated twist like Ardha Matsyendrasana is a great way to explore this technique, although it can be applied to multiple twist postures. A seated twist is a great option because it removes the added challenge of balancing in a standing twist posture. This offers more time to explore your breath within TVA activation.

Here are the steps:

  1. Find a tall spine (place blankets under your seat if it is difficult to find more spinal extension)
  2. Place hands at the low back and encourage the top of your pelvis to push forward to find more anterior tilt (low back muscles are active)
  3. Lift the belly in and up and spiral up as you twist
  4. Inhales are for preparation and length, exhales for twisting (spinal rotation)
  5. Your back arm can be placed down for support
  6. Your front arm can gently grab the thigh as you continue to rotate (minimize usage of front arm as much as possible in order to maintain core connection)
  7.  Continue to rotate your belly button
  8. “Wring out a towel”—right belly towards left side of spine creates the transversus rotation

TRANSFORM THE CONNECTION TO YOUR CORE

If you’ve practiced with Matt before, then you know that strengthening muscles on your mat promotes increased mobility. Contacting your TVA means that you are cultivating strength. Connecting to the TVA, the deepest layer of your core, is going to transform how you experience twisting postures. You will find greater mobility while feeling more stable in your body.

Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better,” and this is so very true on the mat. The education you come away with from Matt’s classes helps you to do exactly that. You will know better and in fact do better beyond your expectations.

You can sign up here for Matt’s Twists & Folds immersion.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Twists & Folds

UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

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Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

read more
Learn To Fly In Side Crow

Learn To Fly In Side Crow

Learn to Fly in Side Crow Get to the Core with 3 VariationsARM BALANCELEARN TO FLY IN SIDE CROW Getting to the core of this arm balance will awaken a potential in your body that you may not be aware is even present. Learning to fly in Side Crow actually goes deeper...

read more
Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency in Your Flows Workshop These Vinyasa TransitionsFLUIDITYIS IT "FIND" OR "CREATE" FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS? It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more...

read more
Build Strength & Endurance

Build Strength & Endurance

Build Strength and Endurance Infuse Calisthenics Into Your Yoga PracticeresilienceSTRENGTH AND ENDURANCE WITH CALISTHENICS There are both simple and more complex ways of infusing calisthenics into your yoga practice, especially as you get stronger and build upon...

read more
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

read more
Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Hip Flexor Strength

Hip Flexor Strength

Access Deeper Forward Folds

uttanasana

HIP FLEXOR STRENGTH OVER HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITY?

Hip flexor strength for deeper forward folds over hamstring flexibility? It’s not a matter of one or the other; it’s about how one can inform the other. It’s also about how, through the process of connecting with developing strength in your hip flexors, you not only learn and discover more about your body, but you also build a deeper, more intimate connection with your body’s potential. In today’s video, you’ll get a glimpse into one of the formulas Matt utilizes to gain access to a deeper forward fold. The method is very specific and intentional. You’ll learn to execute how you have the potential to strengthen and articulate specific movements of the pelvis and spine. Within specific techniques that Matt breaks down, you’ll witness the evolution of your new approach to accessing deeper forward folds.

TWISTS & FOLDS

TWISTS & FOLDS

  • Strengthen core muscles of rotation and side bends
  • Improve spinal mobility
  • Improve spinal flexion for seated postures
  • Strengthen your back and deep core
  • Access greater flexibility of the hips for seated postures
  • Classes will bring you to a sweat and back down to a relaxed state
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $138.00

REVERSE YOUR BACKBEND

Coming into a forward fold position, whether seated or standing, can be an almost “effortless” action if that’s your intention. This may be all that is necessary in a specific scenario, but there is so much more available to you. It’s funny how you would never take this “effortless” approach going backwards into a backbend. It’s easy to conceive and appreciate how calculated and thoughtful you must be to safely execute a backbend like Wheel, for example. Folding forward, however, presents opportunities to be just as deliberate. Matt compares the approach to a forward fold as almost the “reversal of a backbend.” If you’ve practiced with Matt before, then you’ll be familiar with the concept of bowing the spine (lifting the belly in and up while flaring the ribcage forward) in order to reduce spinal compression by creating increased length between each vertebra.

A similar approach is taken in a forward fold. In this case, it’s important to be aware of finding more of an anterior tilt of your pelvis—this may require sitting up on blankets—and then drawing the mid-section back to find more flexion of the spine. There is much more involved in the approach, but reversing a backbend is probably one of the most accessible visuals.

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HIP FLEXOR STRENGTH:  ACCESS DEEPER FORWARD FOLDS

SPINAL FLEXION & DISC INJURIES

It’s extremely important to note that spinal flexion is not advisable if you’re experiencing any disc injuries—a herniated disc, for example. Aggravating this condition with spinal flexion may cause further compression of the nerves or spinal cord, causing more pain and/or dysfunction. When you practice with Matt, however, you’ll learn very quickly that there are always ways and opportunities to transform the experience in your body. Focusing on hip flexor strength for deeper forward folds might be the only aspect you work on, if that is all that’s possible in your body at a given time.

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THE ROLE OF THE HIP FLEXORS

Focusing on hip flexor strength for deeper forward folds is integral to your practice because it both informs the articulation of the pelvis and helps increase flexibility in the hamstrings. This happens via a technique called reciprocal inhibition: activating the muscles that oppose the muscles that are stretching. Yes, hamstring flexibility is necessary, but it can be challenging, and if that is an area of tension for you, it can be extremely vulnerable to injury.  

In today’s video, Matt demonstrates (from an Ardha Uttanasana, or Halfway Lift, position) that when you push your heels out (causing internal rotation of the upper thighs) and lift up through your sit bones, you will activate the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle. In addition, Matt explains that if you lift your kneecaps up, it will also activate the rectus femoris, a quadricep muscle that is also a hip flexor. A bonus effort is to pull your big toes towards one another to activate the pectineus, a deep adductor muscle; as mentioned, it will support bringing the pelvis into anterior tilt. Activating these muscle groups while the hamstrings are lengthening is in fact reciprocal inhibition. These steps offer an essential foundation to help you intelligently move into a forward fold, safely and deeply.

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THE FINAL STEPS

Once you’ve implemented the above steps, and if spinal flexion is a safe shape for you to explore, following these next steps will offer deeper access:

  1. Bow forward
  2. Lean more into your fingers and toes
  3. Pull your front ribs back to round the spine and create more spinal flexion (with a focus on the thoracic region)
  4. Think about the back of your skull reaching towards the ground
  5. Lean more into your toes and fingers once again to support your balance
  6. Pull your front ribs in and look towards your belly button

Finally, stay there to breathe and enjoy the new sensations and patterns you’re creating for your body and your nervous system.

Working on hip flexor strength for deeper forward folds will actually offer a gateway to a vast number of other yoga postures. You can continue to explore the possibilities in Matt’s current Twist & Folds immersion.

See you on the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Mobility Immersion

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Spinal Freedom In Revolved Low Lunge

Spinal Freedom in Revolved Low Lunge

5-Part Twist Technique

anjaneyasana

REVOLVED LOW LUNGE TECHNIQUE

You’re going to multiply the benefits of twisting postures with this 5-part twist technique. There are already benefits you may knowingly and/or unknowingly receive from incorporating twist postures into your asana practice, but this is going to take it to a new level. This technique is going to show you how you can strengthen your body and be more intentional about how you execute twist postures. In today’s video, Matt breaks down this technique in Revolved Low Lunge. The technique can be applied to other twisting postures in your yoga practice, but Revolved Low Lunge is a great way to explore the technique with a solid base.

TWISTS & FOLDS

TWISTS & FOLDS

  • Strengthen core muscles of rotation and side bends
  • Improve spinal mobility
  • Improve spinal flexion for seated postures
  • Strengthen your back and deep core
  • Access greater flexibility of the hips for seated postures
  • Classes will bring you to a sweat and back down to a relaxed state
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

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THE BENEFITS OF TWIST POSTURES

So, what are some of the benefits of twist postures? At the most basic level, there’s nothing like the “feel good” sensation they provide. Twist postures are often a nice go-to when you are experiencing tension in your back. It’s almost an intuitive response of the body to twist when we want to “get the kinks out,” so to speak. Twists also play a role in increased circulation and mobility. “Twists do affect our mobility (movement of organs in relation to each other) and our motility (movement within an organ),” which also promotes increased circulation. This is not to say that no other factors are involved, but there is a contribution. Twists are an important part of creating a more balanced asana practice.

Kaminoff, Leslie & Matthews, Amy. Yoga Anatomy, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL 2012

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SPINAL FREEDOM: 5-PART TWIST TECHNIQUE

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SPINAL HEALTH & FREEDOM

“The spine is literally the ‘core’ of the body. It is the deepest, most centrally located structure.” David Keil, in Functional Anatomy of Yoga, goes on to explain that there is a variety of structures in the body that are directly and indirectly attached to the spine. This delineates the importance and weight that the spine carries in your body.  

In order to experience “spinal freedom,” you must have a level of both strength and fluidity in the spine. Your experience on your yoga mat always depends on your intention regarding a particular pose and/or practice. It also depends on what you know about your body. In regard to twists and the 5-part technique he utilizes in Revolved Low Lunge, Matt talks about this approach to the technique. You’ll see in the video (and read in the breakdown) that there are several muscle activations that take place. These activations can be executed to suit your body’s individual needs. Matt details that if you are hypermobile, which he talks about in the full video from which today’s clip is extracted (see below), it may be more appropriate to hold onto each activation as you continue up the ladder of steps. This will help to create more stability. If the opposite is true, then you may perform the activations one at a time, because implementing the activations one at a time helps create more movement. Whether your intention is to stabilize or to create more movement, both are necessary in order to maintain spinal health. 

Keil, David. Functional Anatomy of Yoga: A Guide to Practitioners and Teachers, Lotus Publishing, Chichester, England. 2014

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MOVEMENTS OF THE SPINE

Within this twist technique, there is so much more than rotation in order to increase your body’s potential. The technique, demonstrated in Revolved Low Lunge, shows you how to create movement with the strength of the rotators of the spine and the abdominal muscles. Instead of relying on a more passive execution, using the strength and push of the rear deltoids and triceps to deepen the twist, this technique provides an opportunity to create more strength and integrity so as to support spinal stability and freedom of movement. You’ll see in Matt’s demonstration that multiple movements of the spine are implemented in order to fulfill the technique. You’ll also see a degree of axial extension (lifting and lengthening in order to activate the transversus abdominis); spinal flexion (to initiate the twist); a degree of lateral flexion on each side of the body; and lastly, spinal extension in order to create the backbend within the twist. Exploring all of these movements of the spine supports the ambition to create stability, strength, flexibility, and mobility. Let’s break down the steps of this technique in Revolved Low Lunge.

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5-PART TWIST TECHNIQUE

In truth, the technique can probably be broken down into 4 parts, but there’s no getting stronger or going deeper in any yoga posture without setting a foundation and becoming more aware of your breath within each step.

In the video, Matt goes through the steps multiple times to offer a focus on the technique itself, the muscle activations taking place, and the breath-pairing alongside the technique.

Steps in Revolved Low Lunge

(Left foot forward)

  1. Set the foundation—pull your knees together and pull your belly up
  2. Round the upper back and twist
  3. Side bend up to the sky (left waistline shortens)
  4. *Pause and wait, breath in, then side bend back towards the thigh (close the gap—right waistline shortens)
  5. Backbend (with option to open the arms)

Breath-Pairing Steps

  1. Take a breath in and pull the belly in and up as in Cobra; as you exhale, round the upper back and initiate the twist
  2. Inhale, side bend the left ribs up to the sky (you can also hold the side bend for some of the twist)
  3. Inhale in the side bend; on the exhale, the right-side body gets short, so side bend towards the ground
  4. Inhale backbend
  5. Twist more on the exhale

REQUIRE MORE FROM YOUR TWISTS

Approaching twists in this way offers you the opportunity to be in more control of your body, both on the mat and in your everyday functional movement and activities. Moving in this way creates more confidence. It may be more challenging to ask more from your body, but the payoff is extraordinary. Not only will you experience a deeper twist, but the sensations you are left with also reveal the strength and integrity you are creating in your body. The advantage of exploring this twist technique in Revolved Low Lunge is that you can remain closer to the ground, which removes the added balance element. You can safely delve into the technique and then later apply it to more complex twisting postures. Take the opportunity to dive deeper into the possibility of twists in Matt’s December 2022 immersion, Twists & Folds.

See you on the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Spinal Awakening

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read more

TWISTS & FOLDS

TWISTS & FOLDS

  • Strengthen core muscles of rotation and side bends
  • Improve spinal mobility
  • Improve spinal flexion for seated postures
  • Strengthen your back and deep core
  • Access greater flexibility of the hips for seated postures
  • Classes will bring you to a sweat and back down to a relaxed state
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that's convenient for you

$168.00 $138.00

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

King Pigeon Variations

King Pigeon Variations

Full Body Awareness for Your Shoulders

mobility

KING PIGEON

If you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll be aware of the domino effect or the ripple effect of how a yoga posture unfolds. Matt brilliantly breaks down every pose with care and intricate detail. This helps you not only to understand a pose intellectually but also to physically feel this unfolding take place in your body; it’s like the satisfaction you feel when you hear the snap of the correct puzzle piece connecting into the right place. King Pigeon is a perfect example of this unfolding. One action intimately informs the next.

SHOULDER MOBILITY

Access Your Active Range of Motions

  • Increase strength and flexibility
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Release shoulder tension
  • Learn anatomy and biomechanics
  • Access a wider range of postures
  • Stabilize the rotator cuff muscles
  • Learn binds, heart openers, and arm balances
  • 12 all-levels, 75-minute online classes
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

SHOULDER ACTIONS

At first glance, it appears that a great deal of shoulder flexion is required for King Pigeon Pose. That’s not false, but there is more to that than meets the eye. The setup of King Pigeon additionally requires shoulder extension, elevation, a balance between internal and external rotation, and retraction of the scapulae. In other words, it can appear and/or even feel quite complex because there are a lot of muscle engagements and contracting actions taking place. More specifically, it’s how these actions are carried out.  

If you’re not familiar with how Matt teaches Downward-Facing Dog, you should check out my previous article, Downward-Facing Dog Shoulder Alignment. There are parallels that are extremely helpful. Once you are in King Pigeon, the key to safer alignment is the elevation of the shoulders and then the pulling of the armpits back (hollowing of the armpits). These 2 actions take place in Downward-Facing Dog to help minimize the possibility of shoulder impingement. In King Pigeon, these actions will also help to create greater shoulder mobility while reducing the potential for pain in the front of the shoulders and in the upper trapezius.

WATCH THE VIDEO

KING PIGEON: FULL BODY AWARENESS FOR YOUR SHOULDERS

MORE THAN THE SHOULDERS

In order to diminish potential strain or pain in the shoulders, there are other actions and muscle activations that also hold great importance. Understanding the rest of the posture will help you find more ease in your execution. For example, creating a more robust backbend (spinal extension) will help reduce the amount of pressure in the shoulders. This will of course require the activation and then stretching/opening of the chest.

One of the most valuable actions is actually the pressing forward of the inner elbow. This is the catalyst for the external rotation that brings the arms up into flexion. When the arms are here, the armpits lift and pull back, through which, with awareness and intention, you can actively create scapular retraction (activation of the rhomboids, upper and middle trapezius, and rear deltoid muscles). Let’s look at the ripple effect.

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200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
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KING PIGEON WITH A YOGA STRAP

(Right leg in front)

  1. Come into Pigeon Pose. A block underneath the right-side buttock is a great reminder and support to keep the hips more leveled. You can still stabilize and be intentional about activating the glute muscles.
  2. Loop a strap around your foot.
  3. Grab the strap with your left hand (palm facing up).
  4. Turn your chest towards your foot.
  5. Do a side bend by sending the right ribs forward.
  6. Use hamstrings to pull your foot closer.
  7. Pull your elbow in. 
  8. Rotate the arm so it is externally rotated.
  9. Elbow comes up.
  10. Once the elbow is by your face, you can close/turn the pelvis.
  11. Lift your hips up.
  12. Grab the strap with other hand.

It’s almost like a checklist—once you have completed one action, you will see how the others intuitively get checked off and naturally fall into place; in other words, once you maintain the side bend and pull your foot closer, your elbow will naturally pull in closer to your body.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

KING PIGEON WITHOUT A STRAP

(Left leg forward)

This variation will require deeper spinal extension and more shoulder mobility. Following Matt’s Chromatic formula—the layering of actions—helps you to move towards the reality of achieving the posture. In the video, you’ll see directly how with each step taken, the body reacts.

Here are the steps:

  1. With a block under the left buttock, come into Pigeon Pose.
  2. Turn towards your right foot to grab hold with the right hand (palm facing up with foot flexed and toes turned away from your midline).
  3. Turn the chest and lift the hips up.
  4. The elbow now comes in close to the body.
  5. Rotate the arm into external rotation.
  6. The chest goes forward significantly.
  7. Other hand also comes around to grab the foot.

King Pigeon is not a posture to jump into! It demands awareness, patience, and understanding. Full-body awareness is the key to unlocking access to this posture.

There is still time to join in on the Shoulder Mobility immersion. Practicing these classes will help close the gap, in more advanced postures like King Pigeon, between what can seem like overwhelm and a deeper understanding of your own body in these postures.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Shoulder Revelation

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NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
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Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

read more
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read more
Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency In Your Flows

Create Fluency in Your Flows Workshop These Vinyasa TransitionsFLUIDITYIS IT "FIND" OR "CREATE" FLUENCY IN YOUR FLOWS? It’s most definitely possible to say “find” fluency in your flows when it comes to a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, but I believe “create” is a more...

read more
Build Strength & Endurance

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Build Strength and Endurance Infuse Calisthenics Into Your Yoga PracticeresilienceSTRENGTH AND ENDURANCE WITH CALISTHENICS There are both simple and more complex ways of infusing calisthenics into your yoga practice, especially as you get stronger and build upon...

read more
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 Five Drills for Greater Accessflying splitsEKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 2: STRENGTH AND POISE The elegant long lines of a posture like Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 require a great deal of strength and preparation. The pose also requires both ease and...

read more
Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reverse Plank Pose

Reverse Plank Pose

Scapular Retraction for Back Strength

PURVOTTANASANA

REVERSE PLANK POSE

Asymmetry is a common issue when it comes to our asana practice. Opportunities to work on strengthening muscles in the back body are much less frequent than opportunities to strengthen our front body. Improving mobility and strength in the shoulders for a posture like Reverse Plank Pose has a direct influence on strengthening the back body. Reverse Plank Pose is easily neglected, but as Matt stresses in today’s video, it’s probably one of the most important postures we can include in our asana practice.  

It’s easy to spend a considerable amount of time in Plank Pose and/or use it as a transition in a given asana practice, but we don’t necessarily flip it very often. Flipping the pose upside down and incorporating Reverse Plank Pose into our practice can create extremely therapeutic effects.

SHOULDER MOBILITY

Access Your Active Range of Motions

  • Increase strength and flexibility
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Release shoulder tension
  • Learn anatomy and biomechanics
  • Access a wider range of postures
  • Stabilize the rotator cuff muscles
  • Learn binds, heart openers, and arm balances
  • 12 all-levels, 75-minute online classes
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

THERAPEUTIC OUTCOMES

If you spend a lot of time with a rounded spine, it’s easy to default into that shape on a regular basis. Even if you attempt to offset your body positioning to open up the chest and come into a more upright or even a backbend position, it can feel abnormal and/or hard to sustain. When this is the case, it can lead to things like chronic neck and back pain.

In the very first class from the Shoulder Mobility immersion, Matt explains how the muscles of the back body are commonly underused. We can see this not only in our yoga practice but also in everyday activities off the yoga mat. Increasing attention and action in this area of the body can help us reap the therapeutic benefits that are available. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: REVERSE PLANK POSE FOR BACK STRENGTH

WHY BACK STRENGTH IS IMPORTANT

Seems like common sense to know that any type of strength development in the body is not only important but essential. Unfortunately, we don’t always seek or develop balanced strength within our bodies when it comes to our asana practice. It’s human nature to resist things that bring challenge, and engaging the muscles in the back body can be tiring and difficult. The action of drawing the shoulder blades together feels good because it offsets forward shoulder-rounding and increases the stretch in the pectoral muscles. The pectoral muscles spend a lot of time in a shortened position, so retraction of the scapulae in poses like Reverse Plank Pose creates the desired length and stretch in the front body.

Retraction of the scapulae will help strengthen the rhomboid muscles and the middle fibers of the trapezius. This is important because it informs the quality of your daily posture.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

HAND VARIATIONS IN REVERSE PLANK POSE

In the video, Matt offers both Reverse Side Plank and Reverse Tabletop. In exploring these variations, you’ll find different ways to place your hands. The reason this is so important is that a specific hand position might be more suitable for your current state of shoulder mobility. It also provides opportunities for you to retract the scapulae from both internal and external rotation of the upper arm bones (humeri). This can help you better understand how to isolate the area of the rhomboids and trapezius. Specific actions, like pulling the hands towards one another and/or apart, can help activate the rear deltoids as well.  

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

REVERSE PLANK POSE SETUP

  1. Find a seated position, with legs stretched out ahead of you and fingers pointing towards heels (internal rotation of upper arm bone)
  2. Lift shoulders up to the ears 
  3. Pull shoulders back
  4. Move chest forward (increases activation of back muscles)
  5. Flex or point feet
  6. Press down through heels (using glute, back, and shoulder muscles to lift up into Plank)

You can see that Matt goes into great detail with each action, helping you maximize the benefit of generating strength in your back. If you’d like to actually see a difference in your posture and a reduction of pain, retraction of the scapulae is much more than just pulling your shoulder blades together.

Matt’s Shoulder Mobility immersion continues for the month of November. Register now and you’ll be able to practice live for the rest of the month, or else practice the classes in your own time. You’ll have lifetime access to all 12 classes once complete.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Shoulder Mobility

UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

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Crow Pose On Blocks

Crow Pose on Blocks

Take Your Shoulder Stability to New Heights

STABILITY

CROW POSE 

It’s not unusual to have a healthy amount of fear and hesitation when it comes to finding balance in crow pose: Will I fall? Am I strong enough? Will I hurt myself? One of the most amazing things about an asana practice, however, is how we learn so much about our bodies. We learn through exploration. When you have a teacher like Matt, he not only provides inspiration to explore, but through his extensive knowledge of the body, he offers a myriad of specific actions for you to experiment with that allow you to move towards a desired result. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates the dual action for you to take for improved shoulder stability in Crow Pose. The use of yoga blocks in this variation of the pose serves as an excellent support to take your shoulder stability to new heights.

SHOULDER MOBILITY

Access Your Active Range of Motions

  • Increase strength and flexibility
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Release shoulder tension
  • Learn anatomy and biomechanics
  • Access a wider range of postures
  • Stabilize the rotator cuff muscles
  • Learn binds, heart openers, and arm balances
  • 12 all-levels, 75-minute online classes
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

HYPERMOBILE VS. HYPOMOBILE

Whether you are hypermobile or hypomobile, working on stability in your yoga practice is a must. What’s the difference between the two?  “Joint hypermobility is a clinical condition in which the joints move beyond the expected physiological range of motion.” When this is the case, understanding your body and knowing your individual “end range” can help you know when to pull back in order to minimize instability and possible injury. On the other hand, hypomobility means that there is a decrease and a significant limitation in the range of motion that is actually possible within a specific joint. When it comes to the shoulders, both states are common, and both have the potential to result in pain. It may seem counterintuitive to work on stability when hypomobile, because you may associate the toughness or rigidity with stability. Stability is just part of the equation when developing healthy muscle tissue, but it is an important part of the equation.  

Atici A, Aktas I, Akpinar P, Ozkan FU. The relationship between joint hypermobility and subacromial impingement syndrome and adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. North Clin Istanb. 2018 Sep;5(3):232-237. doi: 10.14744/nci.2017.35119. PMID: 30688930; PMCID: PMC6323568.

WATCH THE VIDEO: CROW POSE ON BLOCKS

SHOULDER STABILITY

An essential part of shoulder stability happens when the muscles around the glenohumeral joint (rotator cuff muscles) have the ability to contract and help the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) stay centered and secure in the joint. Having the ability to contract means that these muscles actually have less rigidity; it means that there is a suppleness to the tissues which allows them to contract, expand, move, and glide as they should. An arm balance like Crow Pose requires a sizable amount of shoulder stability.

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200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

THE 2 MAIN ACTIONS

The actions Matt demonstrates in the video for shoulder stability in Crow Pose are protraction and external rotation. He explains that in scapular protraction, the tendency will be to internally rotate the humerus; however, if you can externally rotate the arm bones while in protraction, it will create a vast amount of shoulder stability in your arm balances. There’s actually a counteraction taking place. The goal is to apply these two actions simultaneously. Matt teaches us that internal rotation is fine—it’s actually something we want—but in the context of this arm balance, if you counteract the protraction with external rotation, there will be a tremendous amount of muscle activation that surrounds the joints. This in turn translates into better stability and better balance.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

IMPLEMENT THESE KEY ACTIONS FOR CROW POSE ON BLOCKS

Executing Crow Pose on blocks is not as simple as only doing the 2 actions (protraction and external rotation) for the shoulders, but bringing your focus and attention here might just be what is missing from actually realizing your full potential in the posture.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stack 2 blocks horizontally on their first height
  2. Place your hands wide on the ground, just ahead of the blocks
  3. Step onto the blocks 
  4. Lower your hips down towards your heels
  5. Take your knees wide and out to the sides (*The height of the blocks allow you to have a better handle on allowing your shins the space to rest on the upper arms for better support)
  6. Squeeze legs into the chest
  7. Get your fingers active (grip the ground)
  8. Lean forward into fingers
  9. Rotate elbows in (external rotation of the humerus)
  10.  Squeeze knees in towards your midline (activating the adductor muscles)
  11. Push the floor away to protract the scapulae more (round your back more)

TAKEAWAYS

What you end up finding out about your body is whether or not your proprioception is accurate: Is your physical body able to respond to the cues so as to follow through with these actions? Do you require more strength? This helps you to map out your next steps and course of action.

A good step in the right direction is to sign up for Matt’s Shoulder Mobility immersion. In this immersion, you’ll learn more about how to strengthen key muscles of the shoulders. Matt also be teaches techniques that assist in increasing both active and passive range of motion.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Shoulder Revelation Immersion

UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

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THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
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  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
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Side Angle Pose

Side Angle Pose

Shoulder Fix at the Wall

upward rotation

SIDE ANGLE POSE

Stop for a moment and think about how many times you lift your arms overhead in any given asana practice. There are plenty of opportunities, aren’t there? Side Angle Pose is a perfect example.  

Also think about how this action is an everyday occurrence off of your yoga mat. It doesn’t even have to be in another movement practice, or maybe reaching up to grab something out of a cupboard. It could simply be a natural bodily instinct when you feel like you need a little stretch after sitting at your work desk for most of the day. An action like this can be so easily taken for granted. Lifting your arms up over your head without pain is a privilege for so many, and it can be quite frustrating when you want to engage in such a “simple” movement/action but have difficulty doing so. The same thing rings true when you consider a foundational posture like Side Angle Pose. This pose seems  “innocent” enough but may not be so simple when there is pain that keeps you from lifting your top arm overhead.

Unfortunately, pain from this action is commonly rooted in the myth that it is better to draw your shoulders away from your ears even when your arms are overhead. This is often communicated in yoga classes, but let’s bust this myth with some anatomy of the shoulder.

SHOULDER MOBILITY

Access Your Active Range of Motions

  • Increase strength and flexibility
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Release shoulder tension
  • Learn anatomy and biomechanics
  • Access a wider range of postures
  • Stabilize the rotator cuff muscles
  • Learn binds, heart openers, and arm balances
  • 12 all-levels, 75-minute online classes
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

SHOULDER ANATOMY

The acromion process is almost like a little bone that sticks out and is essentially the front part of the scapula. If you were to palpate and travel along the “spine of the scapula” (on the upper border of the scapula) and follow that along towards the top of the shoulder, you would feel a small flat surface underneath your fingers.

Underneath the scapula is the supraspinatus (a rotator cuff muscle), which exists underneath this acromioclavicular joint (AC joint). Within this space, you’ll also find soft tissue called the bursa. Bursae are like little liquid-filled sacs that help minimize friction between the moving parts of the joints throughout your body. Underneath the “shelf” of the AC joint, you’ll find the subacromial bursa and the subdeltoid bursa.  

The action of pulling your shoulders down while trying to lift your arms up may cause compression, pinching the soft tissues. This can lead to issues like bursitis (inflammation of the bursa), tendonitis, or, in some more extreme scenarios, the tearing of the supraspinatus. When these types of issues arise, they create what’s often referred to as shoulder impingement: “Patients with shoulder impingement syndrome suffer from painful entrapment of soft tissue whenever they elevate the arm.” In order to avoid this entrapment, Matt explains that it’s imperative that we learn how to upwardly rotate the shoulder blades.  

Garving C, Jakob S, Bauer I, Nadjar R, Brunner UH. Impingement Syndrome of the Shoulder. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017 Nov 10;114(45):765-776. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0765. PMID: 29202926; PMCID: PMC5729225.

WATCH THE VIDEO: SIDE ANGLE POSE: SHOULDER FIX AT THE WALL

SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT

Once you understand the mechanics, it’s easier to understand why shoulder impingement may start to present itself in Side Angle Pose and other yoga postures where your arms go past shoulder height.  

In the following study, we learn that shoulder impingement is both common and can be more complex:

“Shoulder pain is the third most common musculoskeletal complaint in orthopedic practice, and impingement syndrome is one of the more common underlying diagnoses. On the pathophysiological level, it can have various functional, degenerative, and mechanical causes. The impingement hypothesis assumes a pathophysiological mechanism in which different structures of the shoulder joint come into mechanical conflict. The goal of treatment is to restore pain-free and powerful movement of the shoulder joint.”

Garving C, Jakob S, Bauer I, Nadjar R, Brunner UH. Impingement Syndrome of the Shoulder. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017 Nov 10;114(45):765-776. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0765. PMID: 29202926; PMCID: PMC5729225.

Asana practice does not replace treatment where necessary, but you can be proactive in trying to avoid shoulder impingement by moving with more intention and understanding. An asana practice may also serve as support to medical treatment.

So how can you move with more intention and understanding in Side Angle Pose?

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MOVE WITH INTENTION

Part of the intention in Side Angle Pose and other postures that require the action of lifting your arms overhead is to protect the subacromial space underneath the acromion process. You can reduce collision and obstruction by accentuating the movement of the angle of the joint. This happens by lifting the collar bone up and tilting the scapulae upward. As your arm goes up, the angle of the glenohumeral joint changes because the bottom tip of the scapula rotates up and forward. This change in the articulation of the joint helps reduce or possibly remove any pinching in the area, thus preventing pain.

When your arms go up, there are a number of muscle co-activations that are taking place to facilitate the bones’ movement (i.e., collar bone and scapulae). As the supraspinatus engages, it (hopefully) lifts the clavicle. The serratus anterior helps to pull the shoulder blade forward, and the co-activation of the lower and upper fibers of the trapezius will help with the rotation of the scapulae. In order to maintain the subacromial space, your shoulders need to lift up towards your ears. Setting yourself up at a wall for Side Angle Pose assists in the deeper understanding of the anatomy and biomechanics of the posture.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

SIDE ANGLE SHOULDER FIX AT THE WALL

(right foot forward)

In the video, you’ll see how Matt uses the wall to deepen the sensation of engagement/activation of muscles. A wall in Side Angle Pose is a great prop that reminds you to reach not only through your hand but also through the shoulder blade.

Here are the steps:

  1. Set up your mat perpendicular to a wall
  2. With your right toes facing the wall, place your right forearm on your thigh, with groins back
  3. Hand is by your side like in Tadasana 
  4. Externally rotate the upper arm bone (will retract scapula)
  5. Reach down and away (point the finger to emphasize the reach)
  6. As the arm comes up, make sure that outer line of the scapula is reaching; get your shoulder to touch your ear. In this way, you’ll find that you have a greater range of motion
  7. Touch the wall with your fingertips and push into the wall with the hand 
  8. Turn chest underneath. If your armpit goes forward here, suck the armpit back as you push

This is where a progression may be possible: The right forearm might leave the thigh, and you can place your hand next to the pinky side of your foot. If this is the case, your head may lower, creating more space between your shoulder and your ear. It is important to continue reaching through your hand and pulling your armpit back. 

It’s these seemingly tiny actions that create a huge impact on the experience in your body. Building in this kinesthetic awareness can help you to reduce the occurrence of injury and help you increase your range of motion in the shoulders. Shoulder Mobility starts Saturday November 5th.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Anatomy In Motion

UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

Continue Learning

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Smooth Seated Jump Throughs

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Smooth Seated Jump Throughs Skillful Transition Techniques SimplifiedmovementSEATED JUMP THROUGHS It’s true that seated jump throughs are an example of how to seamlessly create a link between two yoga postures, but they also provide a lot of information about how you...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Open Splits

Open Splits

Follow This Flexibility Formula

SAMAKONASANA

OPEN SPLITS

Open Splits is one of those postures that may not always make it into your asana practice, but there are a number of good reasons for it to start showing up more often. It does require a considerable amount of flexibility, and Matt lays out the perfect flexibility formula in order to safely execute the posture. What it does is offer much more than the result: It takes you on a path toward greater balance in your body, more specifically in the hips. The adductor muscles don’t often get as much of the limelight as some of the other muscles of the hips (e.g., glutes), so Open Splits (Samakonasana) is an opportunity to create more muscle integrity in the adductors, tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles, hip flexors, and inner hamstrings.

 

Online Yoga for Hip Openers and Flexibility

HIP MOBILITY

October 2022 Immersion

  • Strengthen and lengthen your hips
  • Increase active and passive range of motion
  • Learn anatomical techniques to improve functionality
  • Access a wider range of seated postures and hip openers
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

$148.00

MORE INFORMATION

MUSCLE INTEGRITY

What is muscle integrity? It’s essentially the health of a muscle or muscle group. This can still be vague—what is a healthy muscle? Part of having healthy muscle tissue means that you have the ability to control the contraction of a particular muscle or the amount of contraction and relaxation within a group of muscles, at any length. This is important in Open Splits, because even though your legs are out wide, you should have the ability to contract back inwards. One of the most important things to do to maintain safe execution is to never go to your full end range. Staying at approximately 70% of your range will help minimize the chance of injury.

WATCH THE VIDEO: OPEN SPLITS: FLEXIBILITY FORMULA

MORE THAN MUSCLE ACTIVATION

There are specific articulations in your body that are key components of the flexibility formula for Open Splits. These articulations will help you achieve the desired activation of muscle tissue and joint placement. For example, the anterior tilt of the pelvis assists in the activation of the TFL (an internal rotator). Once you bring your awareness to this sensation, you can layer on the additional and contrasting action of spiraling the thigh bones outwards in order to ignite the outer hips (abductors) as well.

The most important thing is to always take it step by step. Let’s examine from the beginning each action that Matt breaks down in the video.

200 Hour Online Teacher Training Certification

200 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET CERTIFIED & DEEPEN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

  • Deepen your yoga practice
  • Build confidence speaking in front of groups in person and online
  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
  • Learn techniques for a wide range of yoga postures
  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
  • Yoga Alliance Globally Recognized Certification Program

FOLLOW THIS FLEXIBILITY FORMULA

There are a number of actions and co-activations that need to happen in order to maintain safety and build upon muscle integrity in Open Splits. As mentioned before, once you get into a straddle position, it’s important to remain mindful and stay away from going to your complete end range. You should recognize a subtle sensation of stretch in the inner thighs and hamstrings. Staying within this range and then isometrically activating your adductors, hamstrings, and TFL is the formula to follow. The stars of the show, however, are patience and restraint. Staying behind your end range and having the patience to allow your muscles to adapt and continue to grow into new flexibility will promote increased healthy muscle tissue.

300 hour teacher training online

300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

GET 500 HOUR CERTIFIED AS A MASTER TEACHER

Master your skill set as a teacher through refined techniques, anatomy, biomechanics, sequencing, philosophy, meditation techniques, theming, yoga business, and much more!

  • Get 500 hour certified
  • Learn anatomy, biomechanics, asana techniques
  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang
  • Business, branding, marketing, and social media skills

OPEN SPLITS EXECUTION

In the execution of open splits, remember to layer each action:

  1. Dorsiflex your toes and point both knees and toes to the sky
  2. Send inner groins down to the ground
  3. Micro bend your knees (to alleviate pressure here) and press your heels down into the earth (to light up the hamstrings)
  4. Push outward now while pushing toes out and pressing legs apart, so pelvis goes more into anterior tilt (legs stay as they are)
  5. Once you feel the stretch in the adductor muscles, start to press your heels down and micro tuck the tailbone (more posterior tilt of the pelvis), or suction the thigh bones into the hip sockets, so the TFL starts to ignite and pull feet towards each other. It is more about stability here, rather than straining. 

Playing with different articulations is helpful in deciphering what areas continue to require attention (i.e., what feels tight and/or what feels hypermobile). For example, if you want to continue bowing forward, you may return back to pressing legs apart and groins back or hips more forward. This will offer a deeper stretch in your adductors. Going back and forth between push and pull actions helps increase hip mobility.

Matt’s current Hip Mobility immersion offers a deep dive into the breakdown of specific asanas related to increased flexibility, strength, and mobility of the hips. More importantly, it puts hip health at center stage. Direct your experience and elevate your practice by registering today.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Hips & Hamstrings

UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

Continue Learning

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork & Chapasana

Breathwork and Chapasana Deep Core Work for Greater Openingheart openerBREATHWORK AND CHAPASANA It’s pretty well understood that the way we utilize our breath in our yoga practice will affect our experience. We also can’t escape the fact that this understanding leads...

read more
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Leg Over Head Preparation

Leg Over Head Preparation

Access Deeper Hip Opening

FLEXIBILITY

LEG OVER HEAD PREPARATION

Looking at a posture like Leg Over Head Pose, you might think that this extreme hip opener is completely off the table in terms of incorporating it into your yoga practice. Don’t turn away from it just yet. As always, it’s the preparation you need to place on a pedestal. Leg Over Head preparation is potentially the key that will unlock your access to this and other hip-opening postures.

 

Online Yoga for Hip Openers and Flexibility

HIP MOBILITY

October 2022 Immersion

  • Strengthen and lengthen your hips
  • Increase active and passive range of motion
  • Learn anatomical techniques to improve functionality
  • Access a wider range of seated postures and hip openers
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
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  • Attend the livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

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CHASING THE POSTURE

Let’s be clear that accessing postures is a nice outcome, but it’s the journey of self discovery along the way that is the true gift. Leg Over Head Pose, even the preparation if you will, can look quite intimidating. It might be a pose you completely reject and turn away from, or it might become a posture you choose to pursue. If you choose the latter, it’s important to understand that “chasing” the posture is not the answer. It’s an extreme posture, so taking your time through the process, unfolding your individual needs, and allowing yourself to be patient with all that’s required is the best approach.

Relentlessly chasing the posture may take you further away from feeling the benefits it has to offer. A healthy amount of discernment regarding when to push forward and when to pull back will provide a more positive experience. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: LEG OVER HEAD PREPARATION

RESTRICTION OF THE HIPS

Because so many parts of the hip play an active role in its execution, Leg Over Head preparation is an excellent posture to include in your practice when restriction/tightness of the hips is an issue. The muscles that need to be lengthened are primarily the hamstrings, adductors, and outer hips. The pose also requires extreme hip flexion and rotation. 

Restricted hip mobility has shown a strong correlation with various pathologies of the hip, lumbar spine, and lower extremities. Restricted mobility can consequently have deleterious effects not only at the involved joint but throughout the entire kinetic chain.”

Reiman MP, Matheson JW. Restricted hip mobility: clinical suggestions for self-mobilization and muscle re-education. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Oct;8(5):729-40. PMID: 24175151; PMCID: PMC3811738.

Limited hip mobility leaves the door open for potential injury. This may be expressed as back pain, pelvic instability, everyday and/or athletic performance hindrance, and more. Focusing on benefits such as increased range of motion, better alignment, and increased flexibility will steer you in a positive direction.

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

LEG OVER HEAD PREPARATION STEP BY STEP

Level I Preparation

(on the left side)

  1. Get into Lizard position
  2. Place 1 or 2 block(s) under your left foot
  3. Move back and up with hips
  4. Take your left arm underneath your left leg and grab your ankle or the block with your hand
  5. Place your forehead on a block (try 3rd or highest height of the block)

Along with the setup of the posture, it’s the following 3 actions that promote increased flexibility and range of motion in hips:

  1. Pull your front heel down and back
  2. Widen left buttock out to the left
  3. Squeeze front shin in

Activating these muscles until you feel like there is no more stretch sensation left is the signal that it may be ok to explore going deeper into the posture. In these instances, going slowly in order to stay safe will increase compliance of the tissues, making the goal of increased hip mobility a reality.

Matt also suggests that you go several rounds on each side to really prepare. Adding in a little gentle movement within the posture, to become aware of the sensations, can also be extremely helpful.

ADDITIONAL ACTIONS FOR DEEPER HIP OPENING

In order to take your experience even further, Matt recommends some additional actions:

  1. Your back leg can maneuver around in order to accommodate the front leg; maybe the back knee more in line with the left knee will allow for movement back for a deeper hamstring stretch. It’s important to be aware of the sensations in the knee. If your front knee feels off, then back off of the straightening
  2. Pressing the front foot forward activates the quadriceps
  3. Pressing hamstrings and sit bones apart might give more range of motion (although pressing the heel down and back are the main actions) 

    Explore one action at a time so as not to be overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. This approach also allows you to come into a fuller understanding of how each action feels in your own body. 

    Sensations may be different within a given practice, which is why moving mindfully is essential.

    Online Classes to Increase Hip and Hamstring Flexibility

    HIPS & HAMSTRINGS

    ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

    • 12 classes to increase flexibility of the hips and hamstrings
    • Maximize your strength through range of motion
    • Access your pose potential
    • Release tension of hips and back
    • Sensation-based practices
    • Unlock and strengthen major muscle groups
    • Active, passive, and isometric stretching
    • Improve mobility and stability
    • So much more!

    $148.00 $128.00

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    UNRAVEL YOUR POTENTIAL

    Leg Over Head preparation does not have to be intimidating. It’s a posture you can get excited about because there are so many techniques and variations to explore. Turn towards what you initially may have wanted to resist. You may surprise yourself with the breakthrough that’s on the other side.

    Register for Matt’s upcoming Hip Mobility immersion in order to unravel your potential.

    See you on the mat!

    The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Video Extracted From: Hips & Hamstrings

    CHOOSE YOUR PATH

    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

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    THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

    When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

    • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
    • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
    • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
    • <