The Art of Vinyasa Sequencing Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 8

Teaching Theme Based

85 minutes - Practice
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Rosemary introduces us to a more energetic way to build a sequence, based around a theme rather than around asana poses. Rosemary also shows us gentle adjustments that are optional for your students, and provides many posture modifications so that any practitioner may feel challenged to meet and explore their edge.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block (2)


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Chapter 1

Welcome, everyone. What we're exploring with this sequence is a slightly different approach. This is more about a theme-based vinyasa practice than a specific asana focus, right? So the energetics behind the experience rather than a peak pose or an asana-based structure. For our purposes, we've chosen to play with effort and ease or strength and grace.

And just to be clear, when we're talking about effort, we're talking about a wise effort, a noble effort, rather than a sense of struggle or strain. So throughout the practice, we're weaving back and forth between these two. The idea is to really contact and feel into a sense of ease in your own body so that you can weave that into moments in the practice that are more intense, more challenging. The metaphor is pretty obvious here. We can take this off of the mat, of course, so when life gets a little bit challenging, we can reach back to that center, that source, and bring a sense of ease to the more challenging moments.

In the opening section, again, we're warming the body, we're dropping in, we're finding the breath, we start with a long child's pose to really contact on an energetic level that sense of surrender. And then we just taste a little bit of strength and wise effort in a held plank, in a slow chaturanga lower. And then in the first middle section, start to heat the body, move into sun salutes and standing poses. One thing you might look for in this sequence is that we intentionally placed some preparatory poses in the beginning of the middle one section to prepare you for the deeper middle two section. So you'll see a low lunge moving into a twist, and then later in the practice, you'll see a full twisting side angle, maybe even moving into the bind.

We also repeat warrior three, playing with the balance, intensifying as we go. It's a lovely thing to look out for. Then in the second middle section, we're working with some pretty challenging poses. We're moving into standing, balancing, twisting postures, it's a lot to combine all at once. Again, having built the warmth, the heat, the balance, the focus, so that we can bring all of that to the challenging postures.

We culminate with a really strong three minute held downward dog with, of course, the opportunity to rest. What I love about these sustained holds is that we can really watch the mind. The body, of course, gets fatigued, wants to come out of it, but more often than not, it's the mind that starts to get bored, resistant, angry, frustrated, whatever it may be, and the opportunity to work with that in a really safe, peaceful environment can be very useful. We also have an inversion opportunity for you with forearm plank. Similar to the peak pose, we build into this really slowly so that you can take preparatory postures if you're not ready for the full inversion.

With the closing sequence, of course, we're looking to calm and ground and settle, begin to integrate the practice, and then really feel into the sweetness of ease after effort. When we work hard, when we challenge ourselves, when we ask a lot of ourselves, when we meet challenges, then the opportunity to rest is even sweeter. There's a long shavasana, there's a slow transition up and out to help savor all the hard work. Really, really curious to how this feels for you, how it feels for your students. Of course, there's lots of room to adapt, and remember, you might not work with such a challenging physical practice.

You can still work with the same themes. You can weave it into a different asana structure. It's the beauty of a theme-based approach. Play with it, let us know how it goes, and enjoy.

Chapter 2

Welcome everyone.

Thank you so much for joining us. Before we begin our practice, I'd love to introduce you to my beautiful yogi friends. This is Kelly, and this is Andrea. Thank you both for being here. Thank all of you for being here.

We're really blessed to have no injuries in the group today. However, of course, if you're working with anything at home, take care of your body, modify as needed, and we will be showing some variations. Usually we'll use some blocks for certain poses, and in general, as often as possible, we'll show different expressions of the pose. Hope you enjoy the practice. Let's begin.

Chapter 3

For the opening section of this sequence, we're really establishing the fundamental aspects of our theme, which is wise, effort, and ease, or noble effort and surrender. That balance between when it's useful to engage, to really work intelligently and intensely, and when it's wise to soften and yield a little. The practice will move between the two intentionally. In the opening section, we want to taste both so that we can feel them in the body physically and energetically, and then carry that through the rest of the practice, knowing when to engage, to fire up, and when to soften and back off a little. We'll be working with a sweet, long child's pose, and then a little bit more intensity in a held plank, long chaturanga.

You'll feel it as we begin. Here we go.

Chapter 4

All right, welcome. Let's begin in child's pose. Just coming down onto the knees, letting the hips sink back to the heels.

For this variation, we'll have the arms extending out. For now, simply giving the body a moment to settle, to soften, to arrive for the practice. Whatever is swimming around in the mind, whatever it took to get onto your mat, as much as possible, we begin to let that all fade, and just ease into the body, and begin to connect with the flow of your breath. For now, simply noticing the breath. Where do you feel it in the body?

Are you in touch with the inhales, the exhales, both? Let the breath be that beautiful bridge back home to your center, to the sensations in your body, to your own source, letting everything else fade, and gradually the breath begins to expand, welcoming in that deep ujjayi flow. In this initial child's pose, we're getting a taste of surrender, and ease, and effortlessness. And if we can contact it here physically and energetically, then we can call on it and return to it more readily throughout the flow of the practice. A few more breaths here.

Landing in your body, enjoying your breath, and letting the rest go as much as possible. And then we keep the foundation of the pose, and very slowly with your inhale, you'll lift the upper body just a little, and then with your exhale, you'll start to walk the upper body out to the right. And this might be fairly subtle, it might be fairly deep. Once you've found it, you'll plant your right hand on the earth and take your left hand on top of the right, just to kind of ground down into it. As the upper body and the arms go to the right, the hips stay heavy, and that left hip stays really rooted back and down to counter the movement of the upper body.

Continuing to feel into that sense of release, and also opening through the left side body. We'll give this a couple more breaths. And then as you're ready, you'll inhale, lift just a little, and with the exhale, walk it all the way over to the left. Just finding your own edge, plant the left hand, take the right hand on top of the left. And then again, as the upper body moves out to the left, the hips stay heavy and sink back and down towards the right a little bit, countering the movement of the arms.

Breathing into the side body, and just enjoying the release, the contact with the earth. And knowing that, of course, in these slower, deeper poses, there's that obvious quality of surrender. However, we want to be able to call on that even in the more challenging moments. This is the cultivation of the play between the two. So even when it's necessary to engage, to call on strength and fire, more wise effort, there's that backdrop of softening where you can, right, taking the unnecessary effort out of it.

From here, we'll inhale, lift just a little, and with the exhale, walk the upper body back to the center line, and just release for a moment, drawing the spine back to neutral. Good. If you feel for it, you might send an intention for your practice today, anything that resonates or maybe just offering the benefits up and out. And then with your next inhale, you'll float up onto the hands and the knees. And as you arrive here, just ground for the exhale.

We'll move into slow, gentle cat-cow, inhale, lifting the tailbone, the heart, the gaze. And with the exhale, rounding the back, drawing the belly to the spine, releasing the head. Good. Again, inhale, lifting, tailbone, heart, gaze. And exhale to round, pulling the belly to the spine, warming through the back.

Again, inhale, lifting. And exhale to round. Taking two more at your own pace, follow the breath and bring any variations into it you may need, circling the head, relaxing the neck, spiraling a little through the spine. Just continuing to land in the body and check out what's present right here in this moment for this practice. Then we'll take a breath to come back to a neutral spine.

And then keep rooting down through the hands, especially base of thumb and first finger, just tucking the toes and lift the knees up off the earth. Just a few inches, right? Yeah. Really strong through the core, drawing the belly in and up, hugging everything in towards the midline, getting a taste of wise effort, building the heat. We'll stay for just one more inhale.

And with the exhale, lift it up and back into downward facing dog. And then give yourself about five breaths here, pedal the feet, shift the hips a little side to side, play with it. Finding more length and opening and space through the spine, through the muscles of the back, breathing into the backs of the legs and sweet and soft and supple here. Another breath. And then with your next inhale, let's roll forward into plank pose, shoulders over the wrists, soles of the feet back, heart extending out, crown extending out.

We'll establish this together and then we're holding for a full 10 breaths. So listening into your body, if it's intelligent to stay here and work with that challenge, please do so. If you'd like, as Kelly's going to demonstrate, you can release the knees to the earth and just work with this variation. Again, the center is strong. The breath is deep and steady, holding for a few more breaths, contacting that sense of engagement, building heat and fire, warming the body.

And we'll give it one more breath and then we'll simply press up and back into downward facing dog. Breath is another beautiful tool to help release energy. So together through the nose, we'll take a big inhale and then open the mouth, exhale, just let it go. And at any point in your practice, you're welcome to do that on your own, just releasing, letting it go with an exhale. From here, slow warming through the vinyasas with your inhale will come forward into plank pose for this first variation, exhale, lower the knees to the earth and then come all the way down.

And then with the inhale, a cobra to your own edge, you just feel into this, whatever height serves with your back, exhale, release back down to the earth. And then pressing through the hands, inhale, lift up onto the knees and exhale all the way back, downward facing down. Nice. This time, inhale, rippling forward into plank pose. And very slowly, we're going to take a five count chaturanga as is or as Kelly will demonstrate knees first, five, four, three, two, nice.

And then inhale, lifting cobra or upward facing dog and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. Yes. Beautiful. Again, a big inhale through the nose, opening the mouth, exhale, let it go. And then it's just a slow walk forward on the inhale coming to the front of the mat in Uttanasana standing forward fold.

We'll give the body a few breaths here, a soft bend in the knees, release the head and the neck, soft through the jaw, hands release or hold elbows. And again, let yourself have this moment of softening and surrendering another breath or two. And gradually, if you are swaying, bring it back to center. If you have your elbows, let your hands release. We keep that soft bend in the knees, keep the head heavy and the neck relaxed and slowly with your inhale, begin to roll the body all the way to stand.

And as you arrive, exhale, release, rolling the shoulders down the back and slowly heel toe the feet together, take the hands to prayer at the heart center, Samastitihi.

Chapter 5

What we're playing with in this opening sequence is establishing the two major energies at play throughout the whole flow. So we start in child's pose for that sweet surrender, a sense of ease and softening. And then with the held plank and the slow chaturanga, we're introducing noble effort, wise effort. And the idea is the body wants to feel into both and then throughout the flow, be able to call on either depending on what's needed.

Chapter 6

So in the first middle section, we're starting to build the heat, build a little bit more energy moving into sun salutes and some standing poses. We're also continuing to play with a balance between effort and ease. And if you'd like to look for another layer in the sequencing journey, we're moving into a full bound twisted side angle towards the end of the second middle section. And what we're doing in this first middle section is setting that up with a way more accessible variation of that pose. So as often as possible in the first couple sections, just setting up, preparing the body for the deeper pose later in the sequence, you can play with looking for that.

Here we go.

Chapter 7

We'll take one breath together here in samastitihi through the nose, inhaling and through the nose, exhaling. Surya namaskar a inhale, reaching the arms out and up strong through the center of flat back, exhaling bow out and down hands on the earth or the shins inhale halfway up rooting the hands up or step back and lower knees or chaturanga on the exhale. Inhale to cobra up dog and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. Give the body a full five breaths here.

We're still landing, warming arriving. So if you need to play with it, you want to pedal the feet, shake something out, feel free. Just easing into the back body and continuing to shed those initial layers. Another breath or two. And then at the bottom of your exhale, soft bend in the knees, looking forward, hop or step to the front of the mat.

As you arrive, inhale halfway, exhaling bow and fold strong through the center. Inhale to rise all the way up, tracing the midline, exhale, hands to prayer, heart center. And again, inhale to reach out and up, exhaling bow out and down, long spine, inhale out and inhale, reach the heart forward and then root the hands, hop or step back, lower knees or chaturanga, inhale cobra up dog and exhale all the way back, down dog. Again a full five breaths here, just warming the body, enjoying the breath, just looking for those moments where you can slow it down, soften, reconnect with your breath, your center, your intention if you set one. So that that energy is there to call on and to tap back into in the more fiery aspects of the practice.

Bottom of your exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step front of the mat. As you arrive, inhale halfway, exhale, bow and fold, now strong through the center, inhale to rise all the way up, tracing the midline, exhale, hands home to the heart once again. Inhale reach, exhaling bow out and down, lengthen the spine, inhale gently, look forward, hop or step back and with the exhale lower, inhale cobra up dog and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog, five breaths, sending the heels towards the earth, lifting through the sit bones and rolling the shoulders away from the ears, really spacious for the neck. One more breath and as you're ready keep grounding through the hands with your next inhale, let's take the right leg up and back and with the exhale go ahead and open the hip, bending the knee, just give the hips and the whole bowl of the pelvis a moment or two here, opening and warming, good and then inhale, reach it straight up to the sky. As you exhale take that right knee outside of the right elbow, we're going to hover here intentional wise effort, hugging all the energy in towards the center, drawing the belly in and up, holding for one more breath.

We stay essentially as we are with the inhale, just draw the knee into the midline with the exhale knee to nose, nose to knee and then just step that foot forward between the hands, simple low lunge, releasing the back knee down, we'll start with the hands on the front thigh, just establishing the foundation, descending through the tailbone, drawing deep belly in and up and relaxing the shoulders down the back, nice. From there with the steady foundation and the supported core, inhale, reach the arms straight up to the sky. The palms can be open, the palms can press, you might even interlace the fingers and press palms to sky. Your variation, a couple more breaths, feel that length and expanse and opening. We'll stay for the inhale and with the exhale release the hands down to the earth moving towards Arda Hanamanasana, so the hips come straight back to lengthen that right leg.

If you're working with pretty tight hamstrings, this is a fairly intense pose for you, please feel free to grab the blocks as Kelly is demonstrating, it can be super supported. Then inhale, lengthen, exhale, fold, breathing into the back of the right leg, breathing into the lower back and the length of the spine, just continuing to open and warm the body slowly, safely, intelligently. One more breath and then we're going to move into a little flow here, playing between Arda Hanamanasana and that low lunge. So with the next inhale, bending the front knee and reaching the arms up alongside the ears, just riding the breath, with the exhale release, hands to the earth, pull the hips straight back, lengthen the right leg, good. Two more like that, inhale, come forward, bending the front knee, let the arms rise, strong center, exhale, release, hands to earth or blocks, pull the hips straight back, nice.

Again, inhale to rise, feel the breath, exhale, release, draw the hips back, really sweet and fluid. This time with the inhale, we're coming forward, bending the front knee, reaching the arms to the sky, keep the foundation steady. As you exhale, just draw the hands to prayer at the heart center and then inhale, draw the belly in and up and with your exhale, twist, hook the left elbow outside of the front knee, right? So we're just establishing the twist here, breathing into the spiral of the spine, shoulder blades are moving down the back, steady through the legs in the center, yes. One more breath here and then keep the foundation strong, unwinding the torso, inhale, just reach the arms back to the sky.

With the exhale, we'll release the hands down to the earth, either side of the front foot, pausing here, tuck the back toes, lift the back knee, establish the strength in the legs and the center and then we'll inhale, rise to a high lunge or crescent pose. Feeling an intensity, building the balance, the heat, the energy, yes. And then we're going to play with this a little bit, so keep your foundation. With your exhale, press the palms, interlacing the fingers, just release your index fingers up, good. Inhale to lengthen and as you exhale, ease about halfway forward, super strong through the center, feel that long line of energy through the back leg, the spine out through the arms.

If you're practicing at home and you'd like to stay here, please feel free. If you feel for it, let's float up into warrior three, Virabhadrasana C. Lots of options here. You can continue extending the arms out with or without the clasp. You can take hands to blocks as Kelly is demonstrating for a little bit more support.

You can also shift the variation of the arms to the side or back and give this another breath and we're going to shift into standing splits. So hands to the earth, sail the left leg to the sky and invite you to kind of play with what feels good here to let the hips open a little bit or to keep the hips neutral. It's up to your body and we'll talk about that in principles of vinyasa sequencing. Another thing to play with here, you're welcome to keep the hands where they are if you're still developing the balance or as Andrea is demonstrating one or both hands to that standing ankle. Playing with that, engage where it's helpful, soften where you can.

One more breath and then we'll stay for the inhale and with the exhale, the left foot floats all the way to the back of the mat. The hands come either side of the front foot. We re-engage the center and with the inhale, sweep the right leg back to the sky. We'll give that hip a moment to release. Exhale, open it up, breathe into it, inhale, reach, exhale, release to downward facing dog.

Your body, your choice. Stay right where you are or through the vinyasa, inhale to plank, exhale, knees are chaturanga. Exhale to cobra, up dog. From your center, exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. Let's take that release breath through the nose, inhale, open the mouth, exhale, let it go.

Second side, inhale, left leg to the sky, exhale, opening the hip, bending the knee. Press through the hands, strong upper body, softer through the lower body. Inhale, reach that leg to the sky. As you exhale, take the left knee outside of the left elbow, hover here, really strong and engaged through the whole body, draw the energy in towards the midline, lift the belly to the spine, give it one more breath. Keep all of this as you inhale, knee draws in towards the center line, exhale, knee to nose, nose to knee, and then just step that left foot between the hands, lower the back knee, simple low lunge, hands to the front thigh.

Of course, whenever that knee is down, you're welcome to pat it if you'd like. Keep this, feel the strength in the legs, the lift of the center, opening the right hip flexors, and then we add the arms, inhale to reach. Arms open or press or interlace, feeling into that length and opening. One more breath, and let's stay for the inhale. And as you exhale, release the hands down to the earth.

Slowly draw the hips back, lengthening the left leg for Ardha Hanamanasana. And again, if hamstrings are tight or you just like a little bit more support, if you're emphasizing ease and surrender today, grab the blocks, lengthening and then folding, breathing into the back of that left leg, maybe even up into the low back. If you feel some tension or tightness there, another breath. And then we'll play with that flow, riding the breath. On the inhale to come forward, bending the front knee, reaching the arms to the sky.

And with the exhale, release the hands to the earth, draw the hips straight back, lengthening the left leg. A couple more, inhale to rise, exhale, release, hips pulled back. Exhale to rise, exhale, release, hips pulled back. This time with the inhale, rise again. And with the exhale, take the hands to prayer at the heart center.

Let the inhale lift belly and heart. And with your exhale twist, hooking the elbow outside of the knee, spiraling the spine. Again, just establishing the twist and preparation for the deeper expression later in the practice, feeling into it, warming through the spine. Yeah, beautiful. One more breath.

Keep the foundation with your inhale, simply unwind the torso and reach the arms up. And with your exhale, release the hands to the earth, pausing here, we'll just tuck the back toes and lift the back knee, strong through the legs, inhale directly up into high lunge or press and pause. Feel the foundation, yeah, feel the balance. And then press the palms, interlace the fingers and just release the index finger. We'll build this slowly, take a big inhale.

Exhale ease about halfway forward and pause super strong through the core. So if you don't choose the balance, know that you're building a ton of strength simply by staying right here as is or when you're ready, begin to transfer the weight to the left foot and float up into warrior three. Keep the arms as is as Andrea is demonstrating, release the hands to blocks as Kelly is demonstrating or shift the arm variation entirely. Another breath or two and releasing to standing splits, hands to the earth or sail and sail that leg to the sky. And again, feel into it.

Do you want to keep the hips neutral or do you want to let them open and maybe just ask yourself why, which one feels better? If you want to play with a balance, one or both hands to that standing ankle, let's play with it. If you fall out of it, fabulous. Try it again and again. One more breath with your exhale, float the right foot all the way to the back of the mat, root the hands with the inhale, sweep the left leg back to the sky.

With the exhale, open the hip, bending the knee, inhale, reach it back up and exhale. Just shake it out. Let it go. Downward facing dog. Again, feel free to stay right where you are or inhale, plank, exhale, knees are chaturanga.

Inhale, cobra or up dog and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. Really strong work. Take a big inhale. At the bottom of your exhale, a soft bend in the knees, hop or step to the front of the mat. Inhale, lengthen, exhale, bow and fold, strong center, flat back.

Exhale to rise all the way up, tracing the midline exhale, hands home to the heart, samastitihi.

Chapter 8

As you saw in that first metal section, we're starting to build the pace. We're moving into sun salutes and some standing poses. We're moving a little bit more rapidly and we're setting up the entire sequence by moving the body into the standing balance, into that twist, into a few other variations that you'll start to see repeated but deepened in the second middle section. You also were able to see some variations of different poses so that you can work with what feels best in your body and so that you have options to offer your students.

Let's move on.

Chapter 9

In the second middle section, we're moving pretty deep. Some more challenging standing postures, some longer holds so that we can really play with what it feels like to stay in wise effort while welcoming in ease wherever possible. We'll show you variations, we'll weave in some hands-on adjustments. I invite you to play with it, explore your own edge and we'll see you on the other side.

Chapter 10

Coming back to center, reconnect with your breath, with your intention. Then from here, we're going to open the feet about hips distance and come into a variation of Utkatasana. Sitting down into it and reaching the arms straight out alongside the ears, hunkering down nice and strong through the legs, strong through the center. You can see all the strength that's building here, energy out through the heart, the crown, the arms, the fingertips, breathing through it, building the strength, the heat and the fire and using your breath to support that. Three, two, and then with your exhales, simply fold, releasing down into it.

A couple options here, just a soft forward fold or Padangusthasana, grab the big toes first two fingers and thumb or Padahastasana, hands under feet. Your choice, take what serves, then inhale, lengthen and exhale, fold. If you have your balance here, explore tipping a little weight into the front of the feet. Deepen the breath into the whole back body. A couple more breaths.

Whatever grip you're working with, keep it for now. And with your inhale, simply lengthen halfway up. Then exhale, release your grip and shake out the hands and the wrists for a moment. Nice work. Still toe the feet together, take a deep bend in the knees and inhale, Utkatasana.

Palms open or press, gazing earth, horizon or sky, always what feels best for your neck. Feel the deep belly rising, yes, good. We're going to keep this, take a big inhale and with the exhale, take your hands to prayer at your heart center, just as we did in low lunge. Exhale, lengthen a little and exhale, twist, hook the elbow outside of that front knee, spiraling the spine. Establish this, give it a couple breaths, feeling into the twist, feeling into the strength of the legs.

And then you'll stay here, just turn the gaze down to the earth. Keep rooting through that right foot, strong through your center. As you exhale, step the left foot to the back of the mat. Of course, if you need to take the hands down for that transition, feel free. From here, we've got lots of room to play.

We're going to see Kelly establish what she has, yeah, and breathe into that. And we're going to see Andrea start to move into variations, drawing that left hand outside of the front foot and reaching the right arm up. You're welcome to stay there or move it into a half or full bind. Breathe through it, be with it. And where you can, three, two, yeah.

As you're ready, we're simply unwinding the torso and rising back into a high lunge. Take your time with a transition, especially if you moved into a pretty deep variation. Reestablish the balance here, feel the breath. With the exhale, press the palms, interlace the fingers, just releasing index finger. Take a big inhale, exhale, ease the upper body forward.

Again, we're transitioning to warrior three. As you're ready, floating up, take the variation that serves. Of course, this is our second time here, so maybe it's a little deeper. Maybe you want to soften and back off, feel it in your body. From here, if the hands are extended, we keep the foundation as is.

Just release hands to the earth, moving towards a twisting half moon. So the left hand stays on the earth or on a block. The right hand slowly rises to the sky, spiraling through that upper body, continuing to deepen into these twists, wringing it out on the inside for three, two. Let's keep the back leg lifted, exhale, release the right hand to the earth or the block. One inhale to reach back through the heel and shine out through the heart.

And then the exhale, step the left foot all the way to the back of the mat. Hands either side of the front foot, inhale, sweep the right leg back to the sky. We're going to give that hip some love and exhale, open the hip. You can shake it out, you can circle it around, whatever feels best here. It's worked hard for you, give it a moment.

And then we'll meet in downward facing dog, always up to your body. Stay right there or through the vinyasa. Inhale plank, exhale lower. Exhale cobra up dog, exhale downward facing dog. Clear it out with a breath through the nose, inhale, let it out the mouth, exhale and at the bottom of that exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step to the front of the mat, preparing for second side, halfway inhale and fold, exhale.

Feet together, bend the knees, inhale, utkatasana, strong legs and center, building pace, heat energy. With your exhale, hands to prayer, heart center, inhale, lengthen it a little and exhale, find the twist, spiral the spine, let the shoulders ease down the back, yes. Give it one more breath, keep all of this, simply turn the gaze to the earth to establish your balance, really strong and rooted through the left foot. Use the core energy to pick up the right foot and slowly exhale, step it all the way back. Beautiful transition.

And again, you're welcome to stay right here as Kelly is demonstrating or you can begin to slide right hand outside of front foot and extend left arm to the sky, maybe you stay there, maybe you move towards the half or the full bind. Three breaths, be with it, finding the ease in the body and maybe even the mind, where can you soften? As you're ready on the inhale unwinding and reaching the arms back to the sky for your high lunge, crescent pose, take your time with this transition and then settle into it, really establishing the balance with the next exhale, take the hands together, pressing the palms, interlace, just releasing the index finger, big inhale and exhale, ease forward strong through the center, slowly transitioning up into your warrior three, taking the variation that serves, building the balance, yes. And then as you're ready, we'll release into twisting half moon, right hand on a block or the earth and then begin to extend left arm to the sky. So just switching the hands, there we go, beautiful, strong through the back leg that will serve your balance a lot, reaching out through that heel, spiraling through the spine.

Give this another breath, keep the leg lifted as you exhale, release the hand to the earth. All right, take a big inhale and then exhale, float the right foot all the way to the back of the mat, hands either side of the front foot, strong through the center, inhale, take the left leg all the way up and back and give that hip a moment, open it, shake it out, circle it around, whatever you need. And we'll meet in down dog as you're ready, just pause, enjoy the breath or wash it away with a vinyasa, inhale to plank, exhale to lower, inhale cobra up dog and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. From here, we're going to keep the feet where they are and with your next exhale, walk your hands to the back of the mat, easy forward fold, yeah. And then let's start to open the feet about hips distance and then a little wider, turning the toes out, heels in and drop the sit bones into malasana, yogi squat.

We're going to have Kelly demonstrate a really sweet support for malasana, the block under the sit bones at any height and then the hands come to the heart. The spine is long, breathing into the hips, the legs are working really hard for us in this practice. So just giving them a moment to settle, reconnecting to that sense of softening and surrendering. One more breath. And then from here, release the hands to the earth, go ahead and let the back round, let the head fall and sail the hips up towards the sky, returning to your standing forward fold, drawing the feet to about hips distance.

With the inhale, lengthen, look forward. And with the exhale, walk the hands back to the front of the mat, pausing when you find your downward facing dog, right? Now we're going to play with a little bit more fluid, effortless standing flow, entirely effortless. Inhale, right leg to the sky, exhale, open the hip, bending the knee, inhale, reach it back up, just for the exhale on the outside of the right elbow, belly to spine, inhale, take it directly back up. And with the exhale, step that foot forward, root the back heel, warrior two, inhale, reaching left arm forward, open and back.

Yeah, just a few breaths here, settling into it. And this time with the exhale, reverse, reaching it back, left hand can slide down the back leg or wrap behind and opening through the side body. With the next inhale, rise to warrior two. And from here with the exhale coming into side angle, you can rest the form to the thighs, Kelly will demonstrate, or you can release right hand to the earth. The left arm reaches up and over, a palm facing down, rolling the torso towards the sky.

One more breath here, rooting through the feet, inhale, warrior two, and then playing with these exhale, reverse, reaching it back, inhale, warrior two, exhale, side angles, floating between them, inhale to rise, exhale, reverse, and then carry on at your own pace a few more breaths. Maybe you keep it one breath per movement, just riding each inhale, each exhale. Maybe you pause if you find a sticky spot, make this your own, feel into the strength in the legs and the fluidity in the upper body. We'll take just one breath to find warrior two as you're ready, gathering the energy big inhale, and with the exhale, hands to the earth, step back into plank, lower knees or chaturanga, inhale, cobra or up dog, and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. Slowly into second side, inhale, left leg up, open the hip, exhale, inhale, reach, exhale, knee outside, left elbow, inhale, back to the sky, exhale, step it forward, ground the back heel, right arm opens you, inhale, warrior two, second side, settling down into it, kind of softening from the shoulders down through the tailbone, and lifting from the belly up through the heart.

With your exhale, reverse, reaching it back and breathing space into the left side body. The next inhale, let's rise warrior two, and exhale into side angle, forearm to thigh or hand to earth, grounding through the back heel, long through the entire right side body, and rolling the ribcage open. And then playing with it, inhale to rise warrior two, exhale, reverse, reaching it back, follow the breath, inhale, warrior two, exhale, side angle, continue at your own pace, your breath, your rhythm, kind of feeling into the fluidity and the ease and the sweetness in the upper body, another breath or two. And as you're ready, we'll meet in warrior two, take your time getting there, let it be balanced, and then gathering big inhale, and with the exhale, hands to the earth, step into plank, lower knees or chaturanga, inhale, cobra up dog, and exhale all the way back, downward facing dog. And we'll pause here, deep full breaths into the back body.

So we've established a lot of warmth, a lot of opening, body is supple and ready to work a little more deeply. The challenge here, welcoming in wise effort, is a three minute downward facing dog. And of course, you'll gauge your own energy and you'll take what serves. You've already been here for about half a minute, so you're well on your way, just stay with it, breathe through it, at any point you can release to your knees, you can even sink down into child's pose, maybe you stay there, maybe you come back into your down dog, it's totally up to you. Using the breath, remember that quality you felt into the opening of the practice in your child's pose, call on that sense of softening and surrendering.

Maybe there's somewhere in the body you're efforting unnecessarily, maybe somewhere in the mind you're efforting unnecessarily. And we use the fire of the practice to discover those places and to begin to let them go. Over halfway there. Honoring your body, rest as needed, fire it up as needed. When do you call on which, and do you tend towards one or the other, could you maybe cultivate one or the other?

Let's stay with it, five, four, three, two, one, two, three, two, one, two, one, two, three, two, one. And the sweet, sweet release with your exhale, lower the knees to the earth, sink your hips to your heels, child's pose. Really, really strong work. The knees can be together or wide, the arms can be extending out or drawing back alongside the body. Take the variation that feels best, and then really let yourself release.

So important after periods of intensity on and off the mat to find opportunities to rest and replenish, to balance, letting the body integrate the hard work, deep, deep nourishment physically and energetically. Another breath or two here. And then before we completely surrender to the earth, we'll play with moving towards an inversion, building it slowly. As you inhale, lift up onto the hands and the knees, and with the exhale, release the forms and the elbows down to the earth. From here, nice and strong through the upper body, elbows no wider than the shoulders, exhale, inhale, tuck the toes, and exhale, lift the hips, lift the knees for dolphin.

You're welcome to stay right here. The next stage would be to start walking the feet in towards the upper body, and as you do, reaching the heart back towards the legs, getting that sweet opening through the mid and upper back. If this is your posture today, beautiful, stay with it. If you'd like to explore taking a leg to the sky for a few breaths, or even experiment with little kicks towards forearm stand as Andrea is demonstrating, feel free. Three, two, and then if you're up, take your time easing back.

We're going to keep the upper body as it is, and start to walk the feet to the back of the mat. One last intense moment of wise effort shifting towards forearm plank. Depending on your placement of the mat, you might need to ease the upper body forward as well. Shoulders in line with elbows, one long line of energy from the crown through the spine out through the length of the legs and the feet, draw that energy in towards the mid line, lift the belly to the spine. Use your breath, five, four, three, two, child's paws, releasing, knees to the earth, hips to the heels, again, take the variation that feels best, and just release down into it.

Really extraordinary work. Another breath or two here, and then just for the transition, we're moving into downward facing dog. We won't be here long. So walking the hands forward, inhale, float to hands and knees, and exhale, lift the hips up and back, and just pausing here.

Chapter 11

The second middle section of the sequence, as you just experienced, is really intense.

We're intentionally building the heat and moving the body into some more challenging postures. We're combining balancing and twisting, which can be very challenging, and then we're holding that down dog, really masking more and more of the body, building that heat, and then we move into a forearm plank preparation or full expression. There's a lot here so that you can really experience what it takes to sustain effort with a sense of underlying grace, ease, maybe even calm. It's an ongoing challenge, an ongoing practice. Keep playing with it.

See how it feels in the deeper layers of your practice.

Chapter 12

The closing section of the sequence is designed to settle and start to ground and integrate the more intense aspects of the practice. We'll be working with some hip opening, with variations, with support. Hopefully this will be kind of restorative and grounding. If it's intense, then modify, support, take props, really nourish the body as we're not aiming to be really intense in this closing section of the sequence.

We will look at a few backbends, but these can be restorative. Maybe you stay on the block the entire time. If you love backbending and full urban dhanurasana feels good to you, you can take it. But again, you've already asked a lot of the body and the rest of the practice, so gauge the closing sequence accordingly. Ultimately, we're looking to integrate, settle, ground, and give you a nice, long shavasana.

Chapter 13

Moving towards pigeon with the inhale, reach the right leg to the sky. With the exhale, draw the knee, the shin, towards the front of the mat and just begin to settle down into it. Nice and tall through the spine as you inhale and releasing down into the fold with your exhale. And of course, if you'd like any props, please feel free to take them. And if there is any stuff going on in the knees, always roll onto your back.

We'll give this at least five more breaths, slowing it all down. Sending the breath and all the heat and the energy you've generated down into the hip and the glute muscles. All right, to hold those standing balance postures, the leg, hip, glute muscles need to work really hard. So we want to give them time to release and open. We'll give this one more breath.

And then slowly inhale, walking the upper body back in and up. We're going to keep the weight on that right leg. And with the exhale, swing the left leg around for more hip opening. You have two choices here. Kelly will demonstrate double pigeon or ankle across knee.

Really important to have the feet flexed, legs engaged, supporting the knee joints here. And Andrea is moving towards Gomukhasana legs, right? So tall spine to begin and then inhale, reach the arms up and exhale, fold forward, okay? Both of these are hip openers. Gomukhasana moves a little bit more into outer hip IT band area.

It's really about feeling into what you need in this practice. You also see Kelly demonstrating a block under the forehead, which is incredibly nourishing and supportive for the neck. If the forehead isn't all the way on the earth, maybe even if it is, giving it a little bit more support. Couple more breaths here and then gently inhale to roll up. This transition is going to be really soft.

Just unwind the legs and extend them straight out in front and kind of rock them a little side to side. And then just draw the legs in, cross the ankles, roll forward, plant the hands, hop or step all the way back to downward facing dog. Moving into second side, inhale, left leg to the sky, exhale into pigeon, again, take the support you need, maybe a little more on this side, maybe a little less. We're basically never perfectly symmetrical. So feeling into that, lengthening and then folding and send your breath wherever you need it.

The hips, the glute muscles, the low back, inner thighs. A few more breaths. And in these deep long holds, especially when you're in contact with the earth like this, feel the body surrendering to the earth, feel the support of the earth rising up to meet you. And as you're ready, inhale, walking the upper body back in and up, keep the weight on that left leg, exhale, swing the right leg around, double pigeon or Gomukhasana. And remembering in double pigeon, the feet are flexed, the legs engaged, protecting the knee joints.

Inhale lengthening and exhale, folding forward. Also the option of the block under the forehead and then surrendering down. Feel the ease here. And feel the benefit of your wise effort. That's where we build the heat, the fire, the tapas, the intensity, and then we can move it throughout the body in these long, deep, slow holds.

And of course, if we came into this totally relaxed and cold, there wouldn't be nearly the same benefits, might not even be safe. So the two work beautifully together. One more breath here, just knowing when to call on which. From the fold, slowly inhale, walk the upper body back in and up, and then exhale, unwinding the legs, extend them straight out, nice and soft. Just kind of roll them in and out a little bit and let them release.

Before we completely surrender onto the back, we're going to play with Purvottanasana, building first into tabletop. So the hens come back, we bend the knees and plant feet. And then pressing down into it, lift the hips up off the earth. You might keep the head neutral. If you're super comfortable through the neck and it feels good, you can release the head.

That's entirely personal preference. If this is enough, stay here, if you'd like, you can walk the feet out, take them together and rise from there. This can be really intense. Take what you feel for, just for three, and two, and exhale all the way down. The legs extend straight out and we roll all the way down onto the back.

Just releasing to the earth, lay it down, let it go, and simply so you can see them a little bit better. We'll have Kelly and Andrea turn to the other side in preparation for back bending. Again, beginning really gently, drawing the legs in towards the chest, rock a little, soft through the low back, and then plant the feet on the earth, rest the arms alongside the body, very simple bridge, grounding through all four corners of the feet, scooping the tailbone and lifting the hips. Feel free to use the block here, or as is, arms at rest or hands class. Breathing into the whole front body, for three, and two, and then gently releasing all the way back to the earth.

Take a breath or two, just rest, and this time, always your choice. You can press up into bridge with or without the block, or you can plant the hands under the shoulders, moving towards urban on your asana. Kelly's demonstrating the bridge without the block, and Andrea's moving up into hardva. Breathing here for five, heart wide, open, moving all that energy of the practice through the whole body, three, and two, and again, gently releasing all the way to the earth. Again, if you're on the block and you'd like to just stay there, feel free.

We'll take one last backbend, any variation, simple bridge with or without the block, or full urban on your asana. This last one, really tuning in, maybe it's one breath, maybe it's a couple minutes, maybe variations within the pose, again, listening. If backbending is a really effortless, sweet part of your practice, maybe you want the deep expression. If it's not, maybe you want the supported bridge. This is a really personal part of the practice.

As you're ready, no rush. Releasing all the way down to the earth, Supta, Baddha Konasana, soles of the feet together, knees out to the sides, and resting right hand to the heart, left hand to the belly. Left gaze, or close the eyes. Feeling the rise and fall of the breath, feeling the energy of the backbending moving through the body, just notice your experience of heart-opening practice, settling, softening. We'll stay for a few more breaths.

And then nice and easy, drawing the knees together. And we'll keep the feet planted on the earth, we're just taking them wider, about hips distance or slightly wider, depends on your body, hip and sacrum alignment. And then just a soft windshield wiper side to side with the knees and the hips. This can be subtle or deep, moving at your own pace, breath by breath, releasing the low back. We're beginning to release all effort for these last moments of the practice, moving into ease and surrender.

Take your time with this. The next time your knees fall to the right, you'll simply pause there, just savoring the twist and countering the backbend. Kelly will just stay as is, and Andrea will demonstrate the outer edge of that right foot coming to the outer edge of the left knee. Only if the knees are really happy and healthy and only if the low back supports the deeper twist. The added weight of that foot just pulls the body slightly deeper into the experience.

Few breaths here. Really important, especially after deep backbending, to take time for counter poses and these closing twists will help to release the back and balance it all out. With the inhale, really slowly, if the foot is across the knee, let it go, and then draw the knees back to center. And exhale, simply let the legs fall to the other side. And again, Kelly will keep the legs as is, and Andrea will draw the foot outside the outer edge of that right knee.

You're welcome to sustain a soft gaze here, or let your eyes close, drawing the energy and the awareness inward. One more breath. And again, if the foot is across the knee, release that first, and then inhale, draw the knees back to center. From here, as you exhale, hug your knees in towards your chest. Drop the arms around the legs, draw the knees towards the forehead and the forehead towards the knees, drawing the whole body into this tiny little ball of energy, like pure potentiality, hugging all of it in towards the midline.

Stay for a big inhale. And as you exhale, complete release into shavasana, your final rest. The legs extend and roll open, the arms rest alongside the body, palms rolling open. And as you feel the weight of the body surrender down into the earth, invite the mind, the heart and the subtle body to follow so that the whole system has this opportunity for complete surrender, deep, deep rest and replenishment. And balancing the extraordinary work of the practice, the wise engagement, the noble effort of space and time to rest, and to nourish the whole system, just this.

And protect yourself. ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah natsang natsang natsang natsang natsang And very gently begin to draw your awareness back. And those of you practicing with us at home, if you have the space, time for a longer shavasana and you feel for it, just stay as long as you'd like. You're ready bringing some movement into the hands and the feet, gently deepening the breath. And with an inhale, extending the arms up and over and reaching out through the fingers and the toes.

Within an exhale, bending the knees, take the feet to the earth and just gently roll to the right and transitioning all the way back up and we'll find a comfortable seat here. Whatever feels best, rest the hands where they're comfortable, soft gaze or close the eyes and taking just a moment to transition from this deep challenging practice into the rest of your day or your evening. Moving mindfully off of the mat. So just feeling your seat, reconnecting with your breath. Maybe if you have time and space here, sitting with the experience of effort and ease and how they both felt in your body.

And then as you're ready, simply drawing the hands to prayer at the heart center and taking a soft bow forward to honor yourself for showing up for your practice. Namaste. And thank you so much, Kelly. And thank you, Andrea. And thank you all for practicing with us.


Chapter 14

In the closing sequence, the intention is to start to slow down, to settle and to ground. I want to reiterate how important it is to listen to your body and back bending. Again, some of us move into them effortlessly and love them, in which case, moving into a full urdhva dhanurasana at the close would feel really good. For some of us, that's a peak pose and isn't really accessible in that moment.

So gauge your own practice, gauge your own energy and take what feels good. We're also taking that one last moment towards the end, moving into urdhva dhanurasana, right? Like a final moment of effort before the complete release. Just as a taste, in my experience, when I've been working with stages of effort on and off the mat, that last moment that sends me over the brink is kind of the most important, right? Can we sustain grace and ease and softening, even when we're right up against our edge, which is why we threw that in for you.

I highly, highly encourage always a nice, long shavasana, especially after a practice where you ask so much of yourself, which is why we let you linger there at least five minutes more if you have the time. And then of course, emerging from shavasana with a mindful transition so that your energetic body has an opportunity to acclimate before moving into whatever comes next. Thank you, thank you, thank you, namaste.


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