Earlier this year, Jill Miller led a Yoga Tune Up® teacher coaching call around the topic of YTU Flow. Several teachers spoke about their styles of teaching flow and guess what, each of us taught flow in a completely different way. This is no surprise given the commitment in the YTU community to thoughtful, creative teaching, no matter what your groove might be. It also underscores the fact that there is never one answer. I have written about YTU Flow in the context of your personal alignment to a yoga tradition, the community of yogis that you teach to (know your audience) and now I am closing the loop on a bigger idea: how to create a theme for your teaching.
Let me reiterate: What makes a flow?
- Moving fluidly from one place to another.
- Intense focus and engagement in an activity.
- Rhythmic movement and breath coordination.
- A state of effortless concentration.
- One breath per movement.
- Breath x movement.
In my last blog, the discussion was about designing a class around DOMs, direction of movement in a joint. Now, let’s consider two more ideas that can spark a flow class: regressing and reorienting poses, both biggies in YTU.
Let’s use Garudasana, eagle pose, as an example. First, get to know your pose. Study the anatomy. Learn the history. One of the benefits of this pose is that a colorful tale surrounds it. Garuda was the mythical bird who was the taxi (or Uber) of Lord Vishnu. He always knew where Vishnu was and/or needed to be and was sure to deliver. Have fun with the entertainment value of this story.
I love Garudanasana because it involves many elements (adduction, internal rotation, asymmetry, many joints plus a balance). Consider opening and closing this practice with a supine (lying on the back) garuda leg twist. This check/re-check creates context every time you introduce it and inevitably the twist is more potent each time you practice it during the class.
Seize the opportunity to add in appropriate rolling such as hips or glutes, upper back or pecs. Discover warm ups and cool downs that speak to actions of the pose. In YTU Level 1, we have been given regressions of eagle pose with garuda leg only positions in crunches and twists. Add in garuda arm only variations in Warrior II, III and/or humble warrior. After isolating the arms and legs of garuda, it is easy to put the pose together as the full version of garudasana.
Reorientation requires you to come out of a literal world of poses and enter an approximate world. For example, if I am standing in mountain pose, tadasana, on my two feet how can I re-imagine it into another plane? How about horizontal in plank pose? Or horizontal on my back?
One of my favorite classes to teach is around the many Warrior III variations. Start on your back with a block under your sacrum. Add in a single leg apanasana (knees to chest). Advance to tubular core and corso leg lifts. Observe that you are now in Warrior III on your back. Continue to re-create this position every which way… through your vinyasas to the various Warriors, you might include deadlifts and Revolved Half Moon. As you move towards the close of the class, come back to the shape of Warrior III via the series.
Whatever format your classes take, never forget the rhythm of your breath. Breath and proprioception will serve your flow. So much of a yoga practice takes place between the poses. Chanel the breath first and then watch the movement unfold, literally inspired.