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.  

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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Open Your Heart in Camel Pose

OPEN YOUR HEART IN

CAMEL POSE 

Layer These Techniques

ustrasana

OPEN YOUR HEART

There’s such a majestic and robust quality when it comes to heart openers in a physical yoga practice. In order to open your heart and gain greater access to a backbend such as Camel Pose, there are specific techniques you can use. Even with their majestic qualities, your experience with heart openers can vary. They can be wonderfully satisfying or extremely difficult. It’s important to be aware of your individual circumstances at the time of moving in and/or out of any posture that calls for extension of the spine. In opening your heart in Camel Pose, there is potential to shift your experience with the posture. The techniques that Matt offers create this possibility to re-pattern what takes place in your body.  

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    BOWING THE SPINE

    If you’ve practiced with Matt before, then you’re very familiar with the terminology “bowing the spine” when discussing backbends, or heart openers. Bowing the spine provides an immediate visual that most people can resonate with, and it is helpful in developing an awareness of the experience of what a backbend looks and feels like. You can just imagine the ease of flexibility in the spine, all while maintaining a strength and integrity of the spine during execution.

    Bowing the spine teaches you to move everything forward first, which leads to opening up.

    Matt explains that in a backbend, instead of just leaning back or arching the spine, you want to think about opening the front of the spine. When you learn how to do this accurately, the discs of the spine slide forward, which is really important. If they don’t slide forward, then you’re just pushing the discs down on the back side of the spine, which will put too much pressure on the discs. Adding this pressure can cause many problems, including pain due to the discs bulging and possibly hitting a nerve, which can radiate in multiple directions of the body and cause issues in other areas. Layering on techniques both provides a better awareness of what is actually taking place in your body and promotes safer execution in heart openers.

    WATCH THE VIDEO: CAMEL POSE: SHOULDER TECHNIQUE

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    THE CHROMATIC WAY

    Matt’s development of the Chromatic approach in yoga involves not just the layering on of postures in a sequence but indeed the layering on of techniques within each posture in order to maximize benefit and to minimize injury and pain. When you start to approach your yoga practice with this methodical mindset, the body eventually becomes free and aware to create these actions with less thought.

    LAYERING POSTURES TO PREPARE

    Matt frequently uses postures like Cobra Pose, where he teaches the fundamentals of how to “bow the spine.” You will also find that he uses Chair Pose in this layering process.  

    Within these postures, we build the pattern in the body of actions such as retracting the shoulder blades while not only taking the chest/heart forward but also lifting the rib cage upwards. Getting comfortable with these actions activates muscles like the rhomboids (during the retraction) and the abdominals (when lifting the rib cage) and also develops the neuromuscular patterning in your body so that these actions feel more natural and become a more automatic response when preparing for and executing backbends.

    back bending online yoga and anatomy

    ANATOMY OF THE HEART

    JUNE 2022 Immersion

    • Technique to expand and deepen your backbends
    • Foundations and preparatory postures to set you up for success
    • Anatomy education to prime the nervous system
    • Themes to cultivate the appropriate mindset for heart opening
    • 12 Classes: 6 focused on anatomy, 6 themed for the heart
    • Unlock a wide range of postures including: Bow Pose, Camel, Full Wheel, King Dancer, King Cobra, King Pigeon, and more
    • Lifetime unlimited access to all
    • Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

    $168.00 $148.00

    MORE INFORMATION

     

    KEY ACTIONS FOR CAMEL POSE ENTRY

    Even before considering the traditional execution of Camel Pose, Matt takes you through what he often refers to as “Camel Pose Preparation” or “Half Camel Pose.” When preparing, it’s not just about entry into the pose; the “exiting” of the posture is also extremely important.

    In today’s video, Matt provides the key steps and layering process when entering Camel Pose Preparation from the left side:

    1. Tuck your toes onto your mat with feet wider than your hips, so that when you sit back, you can access your heel with your left hand
    2. Retract your left shoulder (*Pay close attention here, as you will not just be drawing your left shoulder blade in towards your midline. You first lift your shoulder up, then draw it in towards the midline, and finally, send the bottom tip of your shoulder blade up towards the sky)
    3. Next in the layering process, after this action of retraction, place your left palm on your heel with the thumb facing out
    4. Push the right rib cage forward and up 
    5. Place your right hand behind your head. Alternatively, Matt advises using your right hand to pick up your right ribs (*this will encourage an arched position in your low back, which is the desired positioning)
    6. Layer on a push downward into your left heel with your hand, encouraging that lift of the right side rib cage further up to the sky
    7. Finally, look down towards your left foot

    A SAFE EXIT FROM CAMEL POSE

    As I mentioned before, Matt emphasizes the exit just as much as the entrance. It’s important to note that we don’t change anything. We try to maintain the arch in the spine for as long as possible in order the spine time to adjust to the new shape (relengthening once out of the posture).

    Here are the steps:

    1.  Your hips slowly go back towards your heels, all while keeping the chest lifted
    2.  As you sit back down onto your feet, you can slowly reduce the arch in your spine until it is in a more lengthened position
    3. Take the steps to enter into “Camel Pose Preparation” on the other side.

    Taking this Chromatic approach keeps you in the physical practice: You are steered more towards awareness of your individual experience within each posture. Exploring Camel Pose Preparation also allows you to experience what is happening on each side of your body. This helps you step closer to what your body actually needs. Do you need to draw more awareness to the retraction? The arch of the spine? Sending your rib cage forward and up? You are simultaneously the student and the teacher within your own body. Matt guides your yoga practice with the layering of actions so that you can be fully within the experience of your own body.

    Taking this approach means that you will broaden your knowledge, expand your practice, and most definitely open your heart!

    See you on the mat!

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    Video Extracted From: Heart Openers: Yoga Backbends Immersion

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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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    Take Flight in Crow Pose

    TAKE FLIGHT IN CROW POSE

    Strengthen Your Wrists

    KAKASANA

    WHAT IS THE SECRET TO TAKING FLIGHT IN CROW POSE?

    In order to take flight in Crow Pose, it may seem obvious that a great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on your hands, but what often happens is that a great deal of attention is placed elsewhere.

    When you think about Crow Pose—Bakasana—you may first think about what you need to do to either strengthen and/or activate the core. This is true, but how often do you think about what is necessary for your hands, wrists, and forearms? This part of your body plays a vital role not only in whether you will find enough strength to sustain the posture for any length of time but also in protecting your wrists overall.  

    A great deal of time is spent in wrist extension in yoga. Most commonly, you see varying degrees of this in postures like the following: 

    • Variations of Plank/Vasisthasana 
    • Chaturanga Dandasana 
    • Fallen Angel (Devaduuta Panna Asana)
    • Variations of Crow (Bakasana) 

    Matt talks a lot about starting postures from the ground up, and in Bakasana, this couldn’t be more true. You are balancing your entire body weight on your hands/wrists, so creating a solid foundation with your hands/wrists/forearms is non-negotiable. There are also actions in the hands that are mimicked/duplicated in the rest of your body as you layer on each action in the posture. You will see how everything is so closely related in Matt’s demonstration.

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      THE BALANCE BETWEEN WRIST FLEXORS AND EXTENSORS

      When you understand how your body is working in each posture, it becomes a lot easier to see exactly how much everything is connected and how that both influences and supports the rest of your body parts in activating and responding the way you would like and need them to for stronger execution.

      Because you spend a lot of time in wrist extension in yoga, the wrist extensors (which are located on the back side of the forearms) are often shortened, and the flexors of the wrist (located on the front of the forearms) are in a more lengthened position. It’s imperative that these muscles be strong enough to, as Matt puts it, “apply the brakes” in arm balances. 

      Sending your weight forward is required in Crow Pose, so the strength of the “opposing action,” or creating an eccentric contraction of the flexors of the wrist to almost pull you back (that “application of the brakes” if you will), is in essence doing the work of keeping you balanced in the pose. Without this opposition or strength of the wrist flexors, you would just continue to go forward and then downward with gravity and eventually fall.

      So how do you activate and strengthen the flexors of the wrist? If you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll know that he often refers to creating a “suction cupping” of space, or a Hasta Bandha in the hands (an energetic hollow-like quality in the center of the palms). 

      “Hasta Bandha (Hand Lock) assists energy up through the soft center of your palms to bring strength and stability to your arms and upper body.”

      Ekhar, Esther, The Bandha Approach You Haven’t Tried—That Could Change Everything, Yoga Journal, February 28, 2018

      FOCUS ON YOUR HANDS

      In Crow Pose and other arm balances like it, the more you lean forward, the more you are required to grip the fingers into the ground in order to achieve the appropriate activation.

      Let’s look at some of the anatomy first.

      Your carpals are all of the tiny bones at the wrist (base of the palm), and the carpal tunnels are the space for the nerves to go through.

      When it comes to the hands in Crow Pose and other arm balances, we want to be lighter in the carpals (with less pressure, pulled away from the ground, due to the nerve lines that are present). In opposition to this, we want to get stronger and push into the ground at the head of the metacarpals (this is the surface/place you might describe as the knuckles or where the fingers [phalanges] meet the upper portion of the palm.)

      You achieve this action by drawing the pinky and the thumb towards each other and down into the ground at the same time. This action can also be described as adduction (pulling in towards the midline of the palm). At the same time, the 3 fingers (pad of the index, middle, and pinky) are also pulling towards the palm of the hand.

      This is creating a generous amount of activation and therefore strengthening of the flexors of the wrist (flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis). Although there are many other muscles involved (both flexors and extensors) that are co-activating, these are 2 that are great to keep in mind because the flexor digitorum profundus attaches all the way down to the fingers. This muscle also works in conjunction with the flexor carpi radialis and the flexor digitorum superficialis (as previously mentioned).  

      This fact demonstrates how essential it is, for your practice, to get into deeper awareness and connection with your body in an anatomical sense. This reinforces that nothing works in isolation and that one part of the body, one action, creates a domino effect for other activations, movements, and strengthening to occur.

      WATCH THE VIDEO: STRENGTHEN YOUR WRISTS FOR CROW POSE

      NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
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      STRENGTHEN YOUR WRISTS IN CROW POSE WITH BLOCKS

      Let’s now take the deeper awareness and solid foundation of the hands and create the domino effect with the rest of the body in Crow Pose. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates how helpful blocks are when it comes to strengthening the flexors of the wrist. If flying is not your thing, or it’s just not your thing within a specific practice, you can still work on strengthening the flexors of the wrist by using a set of yoga blocks under your feet and leaning your bodyweight for more extension in the wrists.

      Here are the steps Matt outlines in today’s video:

      1. Place your feet up on the blocks
      2. Take your hands out in front, grip the ground with fingers (using all of the actions previously outlined) 
      3. Place knees outside of the arms and squeeze into arms (mimicking the action of the pinky and thumb drawing towards one another)
      4. Lift bum up to sky
      5. Lean bodyweight forward (increased wrist extension and eccentric contraction of the flexors)
      6. *Now bring your awareness back to the hands; play with the fingers—grip the ground, press through metacarpals, lean forward, and keep strong in the flexors of the wrist 
      7. Bonus is to lift the heels of feet towards bum to fly
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      THE BIG PICTURE—TAKE FLIGHT IN CROW POSE

      1.  Squeeze knees into the arms
      2.  Protract the shoulder blades 
      3.  Grip fingers into the ground

      Inviting in what may be some new actions to this posture, or to any other posture where the wrists are in extension in your physical yoga practice, helps to create a new muscular pattern. Repeating these actions will help your brain allow you to more easily default to these actions and therefore find the strength, ease, and lightness that’s desired in any arm balance.

        PARALLELS BETWEEN CROW POSE & HANDSTAND

        The beautiful thing about creating these patterns in your body and practicing the proper mechanics in Crow Pose is that these same mechanics translate quite well into other arm balances. 

        If you take a look at my previous article,  Kick Up Into Handstand, you’ll see exactly how Matt guides you through the same preparation for the wrists and forearms. You’ll see the importance of gripping the ground, the same alignment for the forearms, and the negotiation of the shift in weight required to balance (the balance of strength between the wrist flexors and extensors)—the same actions and techniques that help you to take flight in Crow Pose are the same fundamentals that help you see success and that assist with the crossover from one arm balance to another.

        Matt’s next Immersion, Handstand and Meditation, offers you an incredible opportunity to work on these fundamentals time and time again. You can also dive deeper into these teachings in his next 200 & 300 Hour Teacher Trainings.

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

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          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...

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          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...

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          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...

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          Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

          Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

          Seated vs. Standing Dandasana Prepare for Seated Forward Foldstaff poseSEATED 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...

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