Compass Pose

Compass Pose

Variations to Challenge Balance and Flexibility

balance & flexibility

COMPASS POSE VARIATIONS

Compass Pose, especially the variations Matt offers today, will challenge you, and not necessarily in the ways you might think. Most obviously, it will challenge you in the lateral flexion of the spine and the extensive amount of shoulder and hamstring flexibility required, but even more than that are all the lifts, drops, and turns, or maybe better said, the articulations and/or actions in the joints, that make it that much more challenging. However, with challenge comes reward. You’ll see that both variations provide an opportunity to deepen your understanding of the posture because of the step-by-step techniques you’ll follow and because of how your body responds within the posture. After reviewing today’s video clip, you’ll be empowered with 2 variations of Compass Pose that will test your ability to stay present while increasing strength, balance, and flexibility.

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THE SPLITS

  • Improve flexibility of hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and glutes
  • Hanumanasana Splits
  • Center Splits
  • Vishvamitrasana
  • Standing Splits / Ekapadasana
  • Extended Side Plank / Vashisthasana
  • Straddle entries for inversions, with modifications for all levels
  • Moderate Vinyasa style with alignment, technique, and biomechanics
  • Sequences are anatomically informed and carefully crafted
  • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
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$148.00

ANATOMY OF COMPASS POSE

Although Compass Pose is a seated posture, it does require balance. After all, one leg is lifted while the other is grounded to the floor. Lifting the top leg requires strength in the outer hip muscles (gluteus medius & minimus).  Because you grab hold of the foot of the top leg, you might argue that Compass Pose is both a passive and an active stretch. A healthy approach to this lifting and opening is to activate those outer hip muscles to create more abduction, rather than relying solely on the flexibility of the adductors and the hamstrings. Next up are your shoulders and back muscles. Gaining access to grabbing hold of the foot requires an engagement of the rhomboids to create more opening in the shoulders. In addition, there are 2 actions that are key to putting it all together.

WATCH THE VIDEO

COMPASS POSE: 2 VARIATIONS TO CHALLENGE BALANCE AND FLEXIBILITY

COMPASS POSE VARIATION 1

It’s the 2 additional actions we’ll see now that bring the pose together.

In this variation, the bottom knee is bent. Matt shows you how to “snuggle” into your lifted leg while leaning and putting your weight into the bent (or seated) leg, seting you up for success. Leaning your weight to the side allows for a hike of the hip—the first action. This lifting, along with the activation of the rhomboids to pull your shoulder back, allows you to more easily guide your foot. Matt explains that keeping the hike of the hip means that your pelvis is at an angle in which your leg doesn’t have to fight against the hip joint, ultimately making it easier for shoulder opening. The second action is the internal rotation of the hip as you lift the leg. Internal rotation helps maintain the lift. 

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COMPASS POSE VARIATION 2

In this 2nd variation of Compass Pose, the bottom leg is straight and mimics Center Splits early in the setup. Once you’re in the posture, extending the bottom leg all the way out further challenges your balance and flexibility. In order to maintain better balance, you can emphasize internally rotating through both legs for more stability in your base.  

Now, remember when I mentioned that Compass Pose can be viewed as both an active and a passive stretch? In the full class, Matt takes the pose to the next level and offers the option of letting go of the foot and relying on both the active flexion of the hip and the activation of the outer hips. Do these actions remind you of anything?  If you said Vishvamitrasana, then you’re right. So much of what Matt offers here is exactly what you need to prepare for Vishvamitrasana (also known, among other names in English, as Flying Compass Pose).

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WITH CHALLENGE COMES REWARD

The challenges you encounter might be in those finer details (hiking up and internally rotating the hip), or perhaps the inability to balance on one side is preventing you from utilizing the flexibility available to you. If you do find balance, incorporating the internal rotation may either throw off your balance or make it hard to maintain. The truth is that building on one step at a time while honoring the current state of your body will help you reap the rewards over time.  

Matt’s current Splits Immersion will both challenge you and guide you toward the mastery of these techniques.

See you on the mat!

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Video Extracted From: The Splits

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
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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
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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.

WATCH THE VIDEO

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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  • Learn foundational class structures and templates
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  • Get certified and highly qualified to teach yoga
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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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300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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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

UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!

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SHORTEN TO LENGTHEN YOUR STANDING SPLITS

SHORTEN TO LENGTHEN YOUR STANDING SPLITS 

INCREASE FLEXIBILITY WITH THIS TECHNIQUE

HANUMANASANA

SHORTEN TO LENGTHEN

What does shorten to lengthen your standing splits even mean? Does that even make sense? At first thought it may seem counterintuitive that if you want to increase your flexibility, you need to shorten. What we’re talking about is shortening muscles in order to find greater length in your hamstrings for this posture. There is a specific technique that supports your ability to increase your flexibility, all while building strength and integrity in standing splits.

PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE STRETCHING

Any variation of splits requires a great deal of flexibility, and because lengthening muscles is non-negotiable to execute this posture, a common go-to strategy in your yoga practice may be to select postures and techniques that passively assist you in this endeavor. This passive assistance might involve using a yoga strap, a wall, and/or the floor to sink into the forces of gravity. These can be effective stretching methods at various times, but if you’re interested not only in lengthening but in the overall health of the muscles that are lengthening, then please introduce yourself to the concept of a Facilitated Stretch (more on this in a bit). This technique asks you to shorten in order to lengthen. A facilitated stretch requires you to be a more active participant in creating stronger and healthier flexibility in your body.

 

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ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

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  • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
  • Practice essential meditation techniques to break through mental barriers and build confidence
  • Improve focus and breath support right side up and upside down
  • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
  • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
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  • Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

SALE PRICE: $168.00

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FLEXIBILITY? STRENGTH? or BOTH?

In order to achieve standing splits, there must be a level of flexibility in your hamstrings, adductor magnus, and the hip flexors. There must also be an awareness around the movement of your pelvis. However, an element that often gets overlooked is the fact that a great deal of strength is required for the posture. 

When preparing for standing splits, Matt explains that the goal is to keep the hamstrings engaged through the entire range of motion. How is this possible? This is where the awareness of the articulation of your pelvis is key. In the video, Matt demonstrates the importance of slowing the tipping of the pelvis on the way down and also tucking the sit bone of the standing leg downwards (this will create more of a posterior tilt of the pelvis).

The rest of the body should stay in one piece to ensure that the movement is occurring from the hamstrings of the standing leg—everywhere else is stable and immobile. This may take some time, due to the patterns you may have created in your body.

WATCH THE VIDEO: SHORTEN TO LENGTHEN YOUR STANDING SPLITS

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NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!

YOUR BODY’S TENDENCIES

Our bodies just love the familiar, so it will take an incredible amount of focus and awareness in order to go into the places in your body that require more length and strength. This is in fact how you will unlock the posture. You will not only achieve the aesthetic of the posture but also move in the direction of better balance in your body. This also means a reduced risk of injury. Matt always encourages a more intelligent and methodical approach to your practice as a whole, but this method must also be applied as you approach each posture. 

No matter your approach, Splits, Standing Splits, Hanumanasana are very demanding and deep postures that may put you at a higher risk, so the activation of muscles is key. This brings us back to the concept of a Facilitated Stretch. What is it, and how is it implemented?

Online yoga to improve mobility

MOBILITY

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

  • Key techniques to increase flexibility
  • Strength development for mobility and range of motion
  • Learn postures: Hanumanasana (Splits), Extended Side Plank
  • Active and passive mobility for shoulders, hips, and spine
  • Improve spinal twists, heart openers, shoulder openers, and hip openers
  • Find greater ease in seated postures
  • Improve mobility and posture off the mat
  • When and how to do active, passive, and isometric stretching

$148.00

MORE INFORMATION

FACILITATED STRETCH

If you’re just starting your journey of practicing with Matt, please believe me when I say that you will become the best of pals with this concept. Is it challenging at times? YES, YES, and YES I said that multiple times, but is it effective? YES, YES, and YES again!

A facilitated stretch is when a muscle is engaged while it is in a lengthened position. We have something called Golgi tendon organs which communicate muscle tension back to the brain. When a muscle is both engaged and lengthened, the brain will receive that information and will in turn send a signal back to the muscle that it is safe, therefore allowing it to lengthen more. This is in fact the key to the development of increased flexibility. This is also in fact extremely effective for those of you who may be hypermobile. It creates a sense of control and awareness around your end ranges in a particular posture. We have the ability to facilitate this tension by the articulations we might create with, for example, an action of the pelvis and/or the directional pull of a particular joint against a surface, prop, or other part of our body. Staying closer to a safer amount of activation usually means placing roughly about 20% of effort (or less) into the activation. At the root of it all is your breath, so keep this in mind as we look at the steps Matt provides in order to set up Standing Splits at the wall.  

STANDING SPLITS AT THE WALL

  1. Use hands as a base of support
  2. Look towards the wall
  3. Lift right heel (shortens the back line)
  4. Turn pelvis closed and turn inner heel of the lifted leg to the sky
  5. Straighten through inner heel of the lifted leg to the sky
  6. Lower heel of the standing leg back down
  7. Lean more into fingers and toes as top leg is straightened

*Here’s the opportunity to tap into the facilitated stretch of the standing leg:

8.  Standing leg (in this case the right leg) is not passive—microtuck the sit bone down towards your heel so that the hamstrings are engaged

If it feels like you’re strengthening rather than stretching, then you’re on the right track. This is in fact the sensation of a facilitated stretch and what actually increases your flexibility. Rather than causing alarm to your body, it will feel safe to release and lengthen.

A DIRECT LINK TO HANDSTAND

Safety breeds confidence, and the beautiful thing about incorporating techniques like a facilitated stretch into your yoga practice is that you feel both prepared and confident to explore a variety of postures. This exploration allows space for you to work towards postures that may feel “intimidating” or even “inaccessible.”  

The specific techniques that Matt has demonstrated for Standing Splits create a direct link to Handstand. The direct link comes from what is required in regard to the setup. Getting into Handstand from the ground up requires a great deal of flexibility and strength. You can find out more about the crossover between these two postures in Matt’s current immersion, Handstand & Meditation.

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: Mobility Immersion

CHOOSE YOUR PATH

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!
NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!

Continue Learning

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read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe, You Will Get Instant Access to

  • the Technique Pack: 15 yoga pose breakdowns
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  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

deeper twists and spinal mobility with the fire line

DEEPER TWISTS

INCREASE SPINAL MOBILITY WITH THE FIRE LINE

DEEPER TWISTS

DEEPER TWISTS & SPINAL MOBILITY: “FIRE LINE”

Do you correlate strength with twisting postures in your yoga practice, or is it flexibility that comes to mind first?  There’s no doubt that both strength and flexibility are required for deeper twists, but let’s shine the spotlight on strength as we take a deeper look into how we can unlock our true potential when it comes to the execution of twisting postures in our asana practice.

YOUR INTENTION FOR THE TWIST

Twisting postures in yoga are known for their multitude of benefits. Let’s understand though that our intentions behind various twisting postures and the ways in which we execute them can benefit vs. harm our bodies to varying degrees. We may also have very different reasons for incorporating twists into our asana practice. If the goal is to create more of a therapeutic experience, then gentler twists may be the appropriate approach to take. If the intent and/or purpose is to work more deeply into a twist, then there are ways to heighten the experience with proper awareness and activation (we’ll see this shortly with Matt’s unique approach). Whether there is some level of vulnerability due to injury or not, doing things like pushing through the arms or trying to force more deeply into a twist can in fact cause harm, and this is never the desired outcome.

 

Online yoga to improve mobility

MOBILITY

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

  • Key techniques to increase flexibility
  • Strength development for mobility and range of motion
  • Learn postures: Hanumanasana (Splits), Extended Side Plank
  • Active and passive mobility for shoulders, hips, and spine
  • Improve spinal twists, heart openers, shoulder openers, and hip openers
  • Find greater ease in seated postures
  • Improve mobility and posture off the mat
  • When and how to do active, passive, and isometric stretching

$148.00

MORE INFORMATION

Yes, all movements on or off the mat will indeed place varying degrees of pressure on the discs in our spine, and, outside of the body’s natural resilience, there are ways in which we can create more integrity to support these movements. Although simply by twisting, we increase the amount of pressure on the spinal discs, twisting is also the answer to the question of how to increase their health.

Our discs require nourishment, and I love the sponge analogy — the “squeeze and soak effect” — when considering how to stimulate this nourishment. An appropriate twisting action or posture can actually help to equalize the pressure in the discs by supplying them with fluid, which allows them to expand. This creates more space and shock absorption between each vertebra, allowing your spine to react with more resilience to movements that create more weight, pressure, and/or impact in your body.

Now, Matt’s approach to twists is quite unique and extremely effective. His approach asks you to bring your focus and awareness to where you can create activations with more intention in order for your body to respond with greater ease. 

WHAT IS THE FIRE LINE?

If you’ve been following Matt and/or practicing with him, then you are familiar with his Chromatic Approach to yoga. Regarding the physical practice, we understand this approach as systemic with a deep awareness of how we move our bodies and progress to a “peak posture.” Something Matt created is the  idea of  the “Fire Line,” which he describes as a kinesthetic chain of muscle activation, or a co-activated line of muscle, or a co-ordinated engagement of several muscles in order to gain greater access to balance, strength, stability, and flexibility.

MUSCLE ACTIVATION IN THE FIRE LINE

Matt starts off by explaining that we first bring our attention and awareness to the serratus anterior on one side of the body, which funnels into the external obliques through the linea alba, then traveling underneath the external obliques on the other side of the body to the internal obliques, which then go down to the opposite hip bone.  

The Fire Line branches off “like a river” in 2 directions. The 1st branch goes to the outside of the gluteus maximus down through the IT band and connects to the outer shin. The 2nd branch goes from the inside of the hipthe iliacus and/or psoas muscle, which is on the inside of the bowl of your pelvis and attaches right at the inner thigh, where it meets the pelvis inside of the femoral head (inside of thigh bone). This all travels in the same direction, where we find the adductor group, which runs at the inside of your leg; some of the muscles in this group attach down at the shin.

We draw a thread of connection all the way through. Through Matt’s dedication to practice and his experience with his own body and with teaching and observing his students, he realized that activating this line allows the yoga practitioner to execute a variety of different twisting postures with great integrity and ability.

He highlights that the “center of the fire” is right at the core. We must recognize that the fire goes inward and creates a rounding through the back of the body. The key is to bring awareness to this rounding by exaggerating a pulling back of the ribcage.

With all of this in mind, we can see why strength plays a key role. Instead of just “dumping,” or forcing our bodies into a twist, we very thoughtfully engage the muscles in this Fire Line to more safely and deeply experience a variety of twisting postures.

online yoga immersion for the spine

SPINAL AWAKENING

November 2021 Immersion

  • Twists • side bends • forward folds • heart openers
  • Learn techniques to strengthen & mobilize your spine
  • Release back tension and discomfort
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Advance your postural practice
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

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$148.00 $118.00

REVOLVED CHAIR POSE

Take a close look at Matt’s deliberate actions in today’s video.  What we see is not only the chromatic approach, the build, the preparation; but we see the activation of the fire line in order to avoid the collapse into Revolved Chair Pose.

When we approach twisting postures with strength as the anchor, not only do we execute twists with more purpose, but overall we feel more empowered in our bodies and our practice.  What a beautiful outcome.

Imagine getting this type of insight on your practice on a regular basis, and being able to integrate it into your mind and body. Online Immersions with Matt are the perfect way to get techniques like the fire line into your practice. Each immersion consists of 12 all levels classes so you can advance your body awareness and deepen your practice.

If you have been practicing with the immersions than you know exactly how powerful and effective they are.

But what if you want to share this knowledge with others? Take advantage of the opportunity to study with Matt in his upcoming teacher trainings.  His 200 and 300 Hr trainings are open for enrollment.

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

This is for you if you are interested in deepening your yoga practice, building your confidence, learning how to create a class, sharing this practice with friends, family or beyond. Yes it’s for all levels, ages, etc.

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

This training is definitely for you if you are already certified at the 200 or 500 hour level but want to take your teaching career and practice to the next level. In this training you will learn Anatomy, Bio-mechanics, Postural Techniques, Intelligent Sequencing, Breathwork, Meditation, Heart Centered Philosophy, Theming, Business Structure, Marketing, Social Media, Branding and how to build a sustainable and successful career!

Article by Trish Curling  @anioyoga

Video Extracted From: The 200 & 300 Hour Trainings and April 2020 Immersion “The Greatest Hits”

Online yoga to improve mobility

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  • Key techniques to increase flexibility
  • Strength development for mobility and range of motion
  • Learn postures: Hanumanasana (Splits), Extended Side Plank
  • Active and passive mobility for shoulders, hips, and spine
  • Improve spinal twists, heart openers, shoulder openers, and hip openers
  • Find greater ease in seated postures
  • Improve mobility and posture off the mat
  • When and how to do active, passive, and isometric stretching

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reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

REVERSE WARRIOR

INCREASE BACK FLEXIBILITY WITH THIS PARTICULAR ALIGNMENT

REVERSE WARRIOR

REVERSE WARRIOR: PREPARE FOR BACKBENDS

Full expansion, widespread freedom, release, and openness — this might describe what we feel as yogis when it comes to the shape of a backbend or heart-opening posture in our yoga practice. We might see ourselves floating easily into this posture and enjoying the lengthening in our front body along with the confidence and strength we embody in our upper and back body (depending on the posture).

Alternatively, we might think about pain, tension, injury, constriction, fear, limitation, even inadequacy if we can’t “achieve” the posture. These are all real experiences, thoughts, and emotions we may have when it comes to backbends. We must always consider, however, what our intent is when it comes to our practice and how we can still find enjoyment and expansion within our bodies, hearts, and mind.

Backbends are also referred to as heart openers because they are associated with doing just that: opening your heart from what may be closed off, such as buried energy and/or emotions like fear, mistrust, sadness, or frustration and anger. We may go to backbends in our practice to shift this energy, to release it. Through this idea, we can create more space between ourselves and our pain. If we can’t make these shapes with our bodies for various reasons, do we not have the ability to shift these energies? The answer: Of course we do.

online yoga immersion for the spine

SPINAL AWAKENING

November 2021 Immersion

  • Twists • side bends • forward folds • heart openers
  • Learn techniques to strengthen and mobilize your spine
  • Release back tension and discomfort
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Advance your postural practice
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

$148.00 $118.00

If it’s not an injury or condition that is preventing you from creating these shapes, you can approach a backbend through preparation. (This is not to say you can’t experience release in other ways, like using pranayama to unlock freedom, but that is for another discussion.) Begin by stepping back from what you envision as the end result and looking at placing your attention on areas that focus your mind, prepare your body, and allow you to let go of outcomes.

I’ll show you how we can do this with Reverse Warrior. If we place our awareness specifically on how we execute lateral flexion with the torso in this posture, it offers solid preparation for backbends. It takes our focus into the process. We are investing “well-placed effort” in how we deconstruct the appropriate actions. We can then experience and feel more expansion, opening, freedom, and release with this “preparatory posture.”

The required flexibility in this posture is directly parallel to the flexibility required in a backbend. I’ll discuss this further. Let’s talk about this well-placed effort first.

Abhyasa and Vairagya in Our Asana Practice

In Tantra of the Yoga Sutras, Alan Finger eloquently explains the ideas of abhyasa and vairagya, “the forces of effort and surrender” [Sutras 1.12 – 1.16], in our asana practice:  

“Abhyasa means making your best effort to focus all the vritti* on one single point, whether it is an action, object, thought, or image … Vairagya is the second part of the recipe. Vairagya is the ability to let go of any desire for the fruits of our efforts to focus the mind. This allows our consciousness to take action in the world without attachment.”

*Vritti is the Sanskrit word for all the images, thoughts, emotions, reactions, and belief patterns that are the activity of the mind.

Finger, Alan. Tantra of the Yoga Sutras Pg.22 – 27 )

With this understanding of abhyasa, we can place our attention on how we execute Reverse Warrior for better preparation for heart openers.

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Required Flexibility For Backbends

Wheel Pose (Urdva Dhanurasana) and Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

Just by simply looking at the shapes below, we can see the similarities.  

Both of these postures require flexibility in the pectorals, front deltoids, abdominals, and hip flexors.

Camel pose back bend

How does this compare to Reverse Warrior?

Reverse Warrior requires lateral flexion of the spine, opening the internal and external oblique muscles because of the side bend. It requires flexibility of the latissimus dorsi, rectus abdominis, and the lower fibers of the pectoralis major for greater extension of the spine.

In the video, Matt demonstrates the added “lift of the heart more forward and up.” This is in fact that well-placed effort (abhyasa). Lifting and turning the heart may seem like a small action, but it is actually how we prepare with much more intent for the backbend. Matt describes how with this action, we open the obliques, crossing the whole mid-section into the linea alba, opening up the side body muscles. Adding the turn, we stretch the rectus abdominis to provide us with greater extension of the spine. Greater extension also means more access to a particular backbend.

online yoga immersion for the spine

SPINAL AWAKENING

November 2021 Immersion

  • Twists • side bends • forward folds • heart openers
  • Learn techniques to strengthen and mobilize your spine
  • Release back tension and discomfort
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Advance your postural practice
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

$148.00 $118.00

Bringing It All Together

What is our intention? We must ask ourselves this question. Is it the outcome or the experience? If we can settle and focus the mind with well-placed effort (abhyasa) at the same time as releasing expectation for the outcome (vairagya), we can let go of the mind attachments and just experience. Abhyasa and vairagya, when practiced together, help us to release, even dissolve our attachments. Is it not then arguable that in this state, we are experiencing the freedom, openness, vulnerability, and expansion we desire from backbends?

Let’s actualize this state of being in our practice as a whole. Let’s step into this in Matt’s current immersion, Spinal Awakening, where he explores movements of the spine, always through the lens of abhyasa and vairagya.

The focus in this immersion is on heart openers, twists, side bends, and forward folds.

Matt’s intention and emphasis is always about you getting to know your body in order for you to tap into your own individual highest potential. This looks like and is expressed in many different ways. Matt invites you to let go of defining yourself as a specific kind of practitioner and encourages you to delve into your own path without any burden of what the outcomes may look like.

Let’s meet with open hearts on the mat in Spinal Awakening.
It’s never too late to join in. Click here to gain lifetime access to the immersion and to yourself!

Written By Trish Curling @anioyoga

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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
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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