Yoga Props & Your Practice

Yoga Props and Your Practice

alignment

YOGA PROPS AND YOUR PRACTICE

When it comes to incorporating yoga props into our yoga practice, we can take 1 of 2 paths. We either subscribe to the notion that if we use props, we are somehow “less capable” than others in the execution of postures, or we can welcome props with open arms. Using yoga props in our practice can help us achieve greater accessibility within a given posture, and they provide opportunities for us to explore our alignment. They also allow us to discover where our strengths and challenges reside. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates how we can more carefully explore techniques in various postures with a variety of yoga props to move us towards greater understanding of our bodies. This understanding ultimately leads towards an unlocking and expansion of our highest potential.

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DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

It might be surprising to see Matt using a camera tripod as a yoga prop in the first part of today’s video, but what’s great about this portion of the demonstration is that he’s not recommending using a tripod as a prop, but it serves as a very quick “how-to” to incorporate what he’s actually suggesting–a broom or a wooden dowel. This part of the video also serves as a reminder that we have license to be creative with our use of yoga props (as long as they are safe of course).

Later, he offers greater detail in both an Open and Closed Seated Twist and in Revolved Side Angle. 

The point of using a prop in this way is to lock into the expansion of the chest and isolation of the spine in twist postures, which removes the common tendency of compensating with the shoulders in twist postures.

WATCH THE VIDEO

YOGA PROPS AND YOUR PRACTICE: 5 POSTURES TO MULTIPLY YOUR POTENTIAL

TRAIN WITH A CHAIR

If it feels like “train” is the wrong choice of word here, please hear me out. What I really mean is to develop our practice through the use of a chair in foundational postures so as to better practice specific techniques. Matt offers A LOT of opportunities to incorporate various techniques in the following 2 postures with a chair:

Warrior 2

In Warrior 2, we can explore the placement of the pelvis, activation of the legs (glutes and adductors in particular), and strengthening of the ankles and feet. Matt demonstrates the exploration of these techniques while sitting on the edge of the chair and then again translating the techniques while slightly lifting off of the chair. Going back and forth here can help reveal where challenges exist.

Extended Side Angle

Again, the chair provides a checking-in point for the positioning of the groin and further exploration of how to strengthen the legs.

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BLOCKS FOR MORE THAN BALANCE

It just so happens that in this demonstration, we again explore the importance of the positioning of the pelvis. The intent is to find a position where the pelvis on the side of the elevated leg is just slightly lifted. When we find the ideal positioning in our bodies, we’re better able to activate the glutes and hamstrings of the raised leg. To go even further, the tucking of the sit bone in the standing leg encourages the same outcome.

Why are the use of the blocks and a wall important here? This exploration/negotiation becomes much easier when we are supported. We can then challenge ourselves to lessen the weight on the blocks to see if we are able to maintain the strength we have cultivated. It’s therefore about much more than balance; it’s about how to foster strength.

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PROPS AND POTENTIAL

As we can see from the video, yoga props (and other tools for that matter) can be like our own private yoga teachers offering adjustments. We can observe this effect in Twist postures. It can be easy to fall into familiar patterns with yoga poses we engage in regularly, but when we incorporate props into our practice, we can better explore more functional alignment. This will have a greater impact on muscle strength and joint health. When we nurture these areas in our asana practice, we can better achieve our true potential.

Matt’s online course The Pose Factory is the perfect course to delve into these concepts. Sign up to get on the waiting list today!

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Article by Trish Curling

Videos Extracted From: Alignment Immersion

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Pigeon Pose Possibilities

Pigeon Pose Possibilities

Actionable Steps to Refine Your Alignment

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PIGEON POSE

The word “possibility” is so powerful—it’s deeply connected to the word “hope.” Possibilities is an even better word because that means there are multiple options, with more opportunities to find what aligns with you. Hearing this in a yoga class can really support your ability to be more at ease; there may just be an option that will assist you in your desired pursuit within a specific practice, which may turn into a favorable experience you weren’t even expecting. In Matt’s classes, you’ll find an abundance of possibilities to completely transform your asana practice in the most positive way. This can be attributed to the fact that he breaks down each posture in great detail. In today’s Pigeon Pose tutorial, you’ll come away with the knowledge of how to make appropriate adjustments for your body in various stages and variations of the posture.

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ANKLE DORSIFLEXION

Pigeon Pose is an excellent hip opener, no doubt about that, but can we even enhance this effect and increase the benefits? There are some alignment cues that can help! For example, Matt directs you towards the articulation of the ankle. You’ll see in today’s video that he instructs you to dorsiflex both feet. You might also be propped up on 2 blocks, one under the front shin and one under the buttock of the front leg, with the front foot hanging just off the block to make room for maximum dorsiflexion. If you take your attention to the back foot, this is where you can increase the stretch in the front hip. It’s the dorsiflexion of the back foot—pressing the ball of the foot down, lifting your hips up, and pulling yourself back—that creates the deeper stretch.

WATCH THE VIDEO

PIGEON POSE POSSIBILITIES: ACTIONABLE STEPS TO REFINE YOUR ALIGNMENT

PIGEON POSE CHAIR VARIATION

Grabbing a chair and incorporating it into your Pigeon Pose practice can really revolutionize your experience. A good place to start might be to sit on the chair and cross one ankle over your knee. Leaning forward in that shape can boost the stretch sensation.

Let’s look at the other possibilities Matt offers. There’s a lot to explore. Other variations with the chair offer options if you need to be higher off of the ground. At the same time, this setup presents opportunities for you to achieve greater range in your hips. By adding blocks in your setup, you can achieve significant range while respecting various progressions. 

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PELVIC ROTATION FOR DEEPER STRETCH

Even though “getting a deeper stretch” is associated with being the “goal” when it comes to a hip-opening posture like Pigeon Pose, it’s important to be discerning when it comes to what is appropriate for you at a given time. Going into deeper range should only be considered when you can maintain a level of strength and stability in your positioning.

In the last variation, you are shown how to gradually and safely explore the range. As in the first variation, the back toes are curled under and you lift your hips up to more easily manipulate the movement of the pelvis. At this point, you rotate your pelvis towards the midline, which creates more of a twist and that deeper stretch.  

In this and any variation, you can decide how much is appropriate.

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INCREASED HIP HEALTH

Understanding hip health begins with increased awareness of your body. As previously mentioned, taking your time as you explore alignment and range in each variation can provide you with a lot of feedback. What is presenting itself? Is it hypomobility or hypermobility? 

Healthy hips are made up of strength, mobility, stability, and flexibility. If you tend to be hypermobile, for example, incorporating strength into the ranges you explore can be extremely beneficial. On the other hand, hypomobility doesn’t mean that you neglect strength, which in this case may also be extremely beneficial. The key is to be even more cautious and patient when it comes to increasing stretch sensation and range.

In Matt’s Alignment Immersion, you’ll discover much about Pigeon Pose while building a deeper connection to your body.

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Alignment Immersion, Splits Immersion & Hip Mobility Immersion

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Hanumanasana Hints

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read more
Chin Stand

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Spinal Spaciousness

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read more

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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.

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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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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
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  • Expand your teaching skills
  • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
  • Learn meditation and breathwork techniques
  • Transformative tools: theming, dharma talks, satsang

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

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Hanumanasana Hints

Hanumanasana Hints

Hanumanasana HintssplitsHANUMANASANA HINTS Applying intelligent techniques to a posture like Hanumanasana is crucial.  Simply hoping for the best is definitely not the way to go.  That mindset leaves us vulnerable to injury.  It’s also the type of pose that can be...

read more
Chin Stand

Chin Stand

Chin Standganda bherundasanaCHIN STAND Without a doubt, Chin Stand requires preparation. This posture must be approached with the utmost humility, essential in order to respect the potential risk. If this pose is not explored regularly in our physical practice, it may...

read more
Postpone The Stretch Sensation

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read more
Wake Up Your Wheel Pose

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read more
Spinal Spaciousness

Spinal Spaciousness

Spinal Spaciousnessdancer poseSPINAL SPACIOUSNESS Some key indicators of spinal health include strong bones, durable yet flexible ligaments, supple discs, and strong supportive muscles. Aside from nutrition, it’s not enough to say that movement in general is enough to...

read more
Steps To Scorpion Pose

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Steps to Scorpion PosevrschikasanaSCORPION POSE Exhilarating, stimulating, and enlivening are a few words we can use to describe Scorpion Pose. We can also use words such as grounding or even relaxing, which might initially be considered strange descriptors. When we...

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.

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