Here’s how I apply my deconstruction principle to teaching a pose. Before I teach Vasistasana, I take my students through a step-by-step process that prepares the body-mind for the classical pose. Each gradation can be the final destination if the previous step is not yet fully mastered.

Here is the process:

  1. Rest in Ardha Savasana- to down regulate the nervous system and connect to the breath.
  2. Self-massage of the rotator cuff muscles with the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy balls-to palpate these tissues, and unwind tension and knots.
  3. Sidewinder Minivini- to strengthen and activate all of the muscles of the tubular core and the posterior kinetic chain of the torso.
  4. Jithara Parivartonasana Minivini- to awaken and energize every major muscle of the torso and hips using a dynamic rotational pose.
  5. Shoulder Flossing Variation 1 and 2- to excavate the shoulder joint from every conceivable angle in a closed kinetic chain and teach internal vs. external rotation of the shoulder joints.
  6. Megaplank with Active Serratus-to explain where the serratus anterior muscle is, why it is so important, and help students embody the connection of the shoulder girdle to the core.
  7. Vasistasana Prep -Variation #1- to build the kinetic chain of the external obliques and teach the shoulder how to stabilize the pose.
  8. Vasistasana Prep-Variation #2, #2.5, #3, #4-All four of these variations continue to up the ante by opening more kinetic chains which create more shear force in the joints.
  9. Vasistasana

As you can see from the example above, my teaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of exploring “inner space”. From the moment we blink our eyes open in the morning, until the end of the day when we go to sleep, we must be concerned with what is happening OUTSIDE of ourselves. This provides a safe container within which you can introvert your attention: it is a mini-vacation that allows you to get out of your “thinking mind” and into your “feeling body”.  Students are continually amazed at how a sacred pause to simply close your eyes and observe your breath, or a short practice of self-massage using the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls can effectively down regulate the nervous system. As a result, new patterns and healthier ways of inhabiting the body imprint into the student’s body/mind; not just during your asana practice, but also in the activities of daily life.

What are the component parts of your short story? How do you move through complex movement patterns? Can the building blocks instead become the “masterpiece”?

Read about the most important part of a yoga pose.

Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.

Find a Yoga Tune Up class or workshop near you.

Trina Altman

Trina Altman E-RYT 500, is an Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer, STOTT PILATES® certified instructor, and a graduate of YOGAspirit Studio's 500-Hour Yoga Therapy Program. While at Brown University, Trina took a Kripalu yoga class which ignited her passion for the practice. She teaches weekly Yoga Tune Up® and Pilates Tune Up™ classes throughout Los Angeles, and trains yoga teachers in anatomy and in Yoga Tune Up® across the country. She is an Rx Series teacher trainer for Equinox, is on the faculty of Kripalu, one of the nation's premiere yoga institutions, and is a regular presenter at yoga and fitness conferences such as ECA, Yoga Alliance, SYTAR and many others. Trina's teaching fosters body cognition and self-discovery, firmly grounded in anatomical awareness. She builds bridges between the mystical and the pragmatic, and specializes in helping others to access their body’s tissues and their heart’s purpose.

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Mariana Espinosa

Thank you for sharing your approach for deconstructing Vasisthasana. Before YTU I always thought of many asanas to prepare for another asana, but now I have experienced that it’s not just a one way road. There are infinite possibilities of movement that can prepare us for a “peak pose”, exploring different means to getting into it and it doesn’t need to be specifically asana or even doing a connecting vinyasa. Each of the YTU poses can bring more awareness into our blind spots and strengthen our weak spots. Thanks again for sharing!

Julie Mackey

Not only does Yoga Tune Up training provide for students and teachers a modern intelligent programming for an ancient practice, but it creates a space for you to take “a mini-vacation that allows you to get out of your “thinking mind” and into your “feeling body”. That is a bigger benefit than the poses themselves.


I love this deconstruction of side plank but I also love the description of exploring inner space and the idea of turning attention inward. I think this is one of the most important parts of what we teach. The practice has never been just about the shapes, but how we experience the shapes from the inside.

Diana Azavedo

Thanks Trina, Such a beautiful way to deconstruct side plank. I will definitely take inspiration from this while creating my own sequences keeping in mind the building blocks and the different parts of the body that need to be strengthened or stretched to achieve or at least have a better shot at the peak pose. x

Monika Bansal

This is a great strategy to reach to the peak pose by breaking it down. It does require skill to select and sequence the poses. I love the way you have engineered the poses before Vashisthasana in a way that actually prepares the body for the final show ! Thank you for sharing!

Sue Taylor

Hi Trina,
Thank you for sharing your deconstruction insights. From my own personal experience teaching, it is rewarding when you see students become curious and it’s like a light bulb goes off as they begin to connect to the targeted muscles/movement. Adding a variety of building blocks in the process expands learning opportunities and every student can feel like the class is tailored to them as they journey into self inquiry and reflection. You are an inspiration and full of wonderful nuggets of information. Thank you.

Christopher Malabanan

The explanation of taking your students through a step-by-step process to lead them to the peak pose requires true skill. It requires a depth of knowledge on anatomy, a keen ability to “read students, and then deliver succinct cues to students. For new yoga teachers, this is quite the daunting task. It’s truly an exercise of patience but can consistently lead to creating a safe space, where students have the context of why you are taking them there. Thank you for sharing this! I needed some pointers.


I love the idea of forming a platform to build the final pose on. It keeps the students safer, and as you indicate, they can stop or modify at any time if the next pose is too difficult.


I love it how in Yoga Tune Up the deconstruction of poses to work towards the final pose. I am starting to incorporate that thinking into Pilates as well. Trina, you have been a great inspiration and I consider you a mentor. Your thinking has motivated me to look at poses or Pilates movements that are not really working correctly and think how to break it down to reconstruct the movement back up. It’s not about the final pose or movement. It’s about how we move and what we achieve.

Karen Bulmer

Thank you for such a clear breakdown! I have been exploring this approach in my own teaching — lots of exploration leading up to maybe 1 or 2 yoga poses in a class. I feel like I am floundering a bit, but also beginning to understand better how yoga asana relates to broader movement concepts. I have just started YTU teacher training to explore this further. This post is really helpful in my learning and understanding.

Ilene Pellecchia

I’m in YTU training now and this approach is exactly what I was craving to learn and didn’t really receive in my other TTs. Yoga has taught me to take things one step at time and now I will be able to incorporate this from an anatomy and movement standpoint too

Ranghild Helmberger

Great process for a yoga lesson. Doing it this way everybody can listening to the body and feel what it tells about this pose and then go into the next and so the body is ready for the next step and if not you can decide to stay at the level and try the next time to do more and so on.

Marie streich

Thanks for the great article Trina, this is exactly the type of structure I am looking to use to put my classes together. The journey is the reward and I believe students will feel more accomplished and be alittle less hard on themselves when the poses are presented in this building way as opposed to showing the final pose and then showing modifications for those who are struggling.


I think this is the aspect that I am enjoying about the YTU level 1 class the most, actually – that there is a focus on taking a movement apart and starting from the very beginning to build it back, and build it back correctly. I think this is the most frustrating concept about the yoga studio I had been going to – the message from the instructors is very ‘get into the pose and hold it’, and though the other message is to keep your eyes to your own mat, it’s difficult to do when there are 40 other… Read more »


Love that this teaching method gives students a range of learning opportunities, invites self inquiry and becomes less about how the pose should look and more about how it should feel, and that this offers proprioception in different postures giving a vast amount of biofeedback to prompt students to recruit necessary muscles to move safely into the stronger version.