Tune Up® Your Vinyasa!

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The author in Chatturanga Dandasana, a classic vinyasa pose, and also an easy shoulder cruncher when performed incorrectly.

The author in Chatturanga Dandasana, a classic vinyasa pose, and also a fast track to shoulder damage when performed incorrectly.

Before I became a Yoga Tune Up® teacher, I had been practicing and teaching vinyasa yoga for several years in New York. Vinyasa yoga drew me in with its almost continuous movement, the rhythmic energy of the flow, and the potential to lose my self-consciousness and find greater self-awareness. I loved walking out of class with that ‘yoga high’, and it inspired me to do my first teacher training. I’m not alone: in 2008 it was estimated that 15 million people in the United States practice yoga, and I would guess that a large percentage of that number are practicing some form of vinyasa.

When I took my first Yoga Tune Up® class with the brilliant and talented Maura Barclay, it was a profound eye-opener for me. Could this still be considered yoga, I wondered, when I didn’t recognize anything we were doing from my time in vinyasa? Poses that I was used to doing standing up, we were doing lying down on the floor; static poses like Garudasana had been turned into dynamic moving poses; and frankly there were some movements I had never done before in my life! Driving home from that first class, I began to question what I thought qualified as yoga. I realized that yoga does not need to limit itself to the repetition of the same poses the same way over and over, but that these poses can be manipulated, turned on their heads, pulled completely apart and put together again. Why? So that students leave with a greater integration of the parts that make up the whole, which is exactly what happened to me. I was so energized by this idea that I signed up for YTU teacher training the next day.

Once YTU certified, I was faced with a big question: would I have to give up teaching vinyasa now that I was a Yoga Tune Up® teacher, or was there some way to bring the two together? Could I use the modern, science-based, up-to-the-minute data of YTU in a vinyasa classroom? Would mutiny ensue if I began to give correct, doctor-approved Latin names to body parts, or turned poses on their heads? Perhaps, but I was so excited by this entirely new vocabulary of movement and physiology that I thought it was worth a try.

I began to smatter the occasional YTU technique in with the more traditional vinyasa flow, and the result was a total revelation. Students would come up to me after class to ask “What was that thing again that we did, with the block under one foot? I’ve never felt that before!” Long-time students who perhaps had reached a plateau in their practice were re-energized and empowered with more understanding, and students working with injuries or chronic conditions now had viable options and techniques they could use both in class and on their own.

This journey of exploration and experimentation began almost a year ago for me, and it’s gotten to the point now that it’s rare for me to teach a vinyasa class without bringing in something I’ve learned in YTU, whether a specific pose, variation, or just the language of movement. I also since then (as requested by Jill Miller) created a hybrid class called Yoga Tune Up® Flow, which addresses the poses of vinyasa through the YTU lens.

So for all you flow yoga teachers out there who aren’t sure if YTU is right for you, let me put your mind to rest: it’s right for you. You may not decide that you want to teach YTU classes, but learning new ways to think about the human body and all its capabilities is only going to make you a stronger, more confident and more inspiring vinyasa teacher. For all you flow yoga students who aren’t sure if Yoga Tune Up® really applies to you, trust me: it applies. Learning why the proper alignment of your shoulders in Downward Dog matters is worth the price of admission alone. And for all the rest of you athletes, runners, spin class addicts and weight-lifters: knowing that YTU can serve as a therapeutic backdrop to your physical endeavors, why wouldn’t you bring it into your routine?

Yoga Tune Up® for me is not simply another set of poses to learn and teach, but permission to innovate, to explore the human body intelligently, and to find inspiration every day. I know that it’s made me a better teacher, and I’m so deeply grateful for and humbled by that, and by the knowledge that there’s only more to come!

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Sarah Court

Sarah Court is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Trainer, and the creator of Quantum Leap. She teaches public workshops, anatomy for yoga teacher trainings, and trains Yoga Tune Up® teachers worldwide. She developed and teaches her Quantum Leap continuing education program to make sophisticated movement science easy for movement teachers to understand and apply to their teaching. Sarah received her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Mount St. Mary’s University. She brings significant clinical experience to her teaching, attracting clients and students with a desire to move intelligently, regain mobility, or manage chronic conditions. Sarah is an award-winning graduate of Princeton University, and edited the Yoga Tune Up® blog for 5 years. She has been featured on exercise.com and The New York Times. Find her Yoga Tune Up® schedule here or go to her full website.

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Great perspective and love Sarah Court as a teacher!!

Jackie Wolff

This hits home for me! I’m so inspired by what I have learned in YTU training that I want to share it all with my students and I’ve had to do more sprinkling. Sometimes a student gets turned off…have a hard time readjusting their expectations about what they would experience when they walked into class, but for the most part it has been well received. I would love to find out more about Yoga Tune Up Vinyasa!

Pascale hazledine

Hello Sarah,your experience teaching yoga and adopting yoga tune up is inspiring.i totally get what you are saying.I am just certifying and experimenting with classes.i work as a physiotherapy assistant and have already started using yoga tune up with patients. I know that this will be a journey and I will continue to evolve.i an doing the core training next month and can’t wait!


Doubt are fading fast. Thank you for the encouragement


Thank you. Doubts I can do this are fading away.

Katie Rutterer

As I finish my TT1, I’ve been struggling with the question of whether or not to give up my vinyasa classes. Thanks for the inspiration to bring some YTU in and be creative – I think my teaching was a little stale anyway!


Thanks so much for this article! I love what you said about pose reorientation and turning poses on their head. I think that’s a really fun and informative aspect of YTU that most any yogi will enjoy. Give the same old poses a new shine and new proprioceptive insights!

Evelyne Linder

I love your invitation to explore and bridge the worlds of flow and a typical YTU sequence! There is so much room to be creative and surprise your students!

Lauren Reese

Wow! This blog really hit home for me!! As I am immersed in my level 1 YTU training now, thoughts of will my students still like me? Will they still come to class ? I know deep down that if I can adapt what I’m learning here to my classes then not only will my students come but they will be able to keep coming!!!! And stay injury free!!! Thank you YTU!

Jen Wheaton

I think this post was what I needed today as I’m sitting in my own level one training wondering how many YTU techniques I can incorporate into my already existing vinyasa classes, and at the same time keep the students who have been coming and “expect” a certain variety of sequences interested and engaged. I love how you mentioned that yoga doesn’t have to be repetition of the same poses but rather “putting poses on their heads” shifting the pose orientation or closing the chain in traditional poses has been completely eye opening for me, shifted my personal practice, and… Read more »

Tracey Silverman

I feel the same exact way! Thank you for articulating so beautifully the thoughts that have been swirling around my brain as I head into Day 6 of YTU training. I feel that I have been given permission, as you say, to innovate. It has unleashed my creative heart and I am so very grateful. Yoga Tune Up has helped me to be a student of my body again!


Where do I catch a Yoga Tune Up Flow class? That sounds like a perfect combination of everything I love! Knowing the whys are so important and create curiosity about what’s going on in the body when we do yoga poses.


This is a brilliant post that shows how YTU exercises can be viewed as a new set of tools to add to your yoga toolbox. I truly believe that the techniques learned during my YTU training will help my students enhance their awareness of particular body parts. The shift in the orientation of poses is something I really look forward to experiment with !


Such an important message to get out. YTU changed the game for me! Thanks for putting your experience out there and encouraging out of the box-ana thinking!

Stacy Jackson

Great article! This is the very reason I took YTU Level 1 training to Integrate YTU poses with a vinyasa flow class. I’ve experienced great feedback from the students I have taught so far!

Barbie Levasseur

Thank you for the inspiring article. I’m looking forward to incorporating what I’m learning in my YTU training now into my vinyasa classes. I know my students are going to love it and love what it does for their bodies.

Nikki Wong

I totally agree with you Sarah. I’ve been a vinyasa yoga teacher for the past 8 years and have never learned so much about body movement than what YTU taught me. I can’t wait to incorporate YTU bits and pieces into my vinyasa classes especially all those shoulder warm ups and ball techniques to warm up the spine.

Nicolette David

I heart Sarah Court! Fear and doubt quelled!

Amanda Z

Funny how our yoga journey continues to evolve, like a pebble rolling down a snowy hill, picking up more and more material and eventually making it to the bottom of the hill into a huge evolved, revolved giant snow ball. Then, melting over the change of seasons, change of locations and start the process all over again, morphing into something new. I started taking Iyengar yoga 20 years ago, loving the props, cues for allignment and creativity of flipping the poses around. I experiemented in other yoga forms and did a 200 hr Hatha training, loving the feeling of freedom… Read more »

Jessica Lesley

This is such a great article that I had to share it on my own blog! Yoga Tune Up has totally changed the way that I teach and practice. My students are giving feedback of feeling totally different in poses that they have done thousands of times before – the difference being they are more aware of what each part of their body is doing (not just focusing on legs in a standing pose, or solely depending on upper-arm strength in a plank etc.)

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dilshad keshwani

Thanks for your sharing. Having completed the 2nd day of the YTU, I have been also reflecting on how am I going to integrate the YTU training in my teachings. And WOW, the orientation of the poses, opens up a world of possibilities. Today, we experimented with many of the orientations of the classical triangle, in open chain and closed chain movements. This in fact highlights the different components of the pose and helps the students to recognize the awakening of all the tissues that contribute to the whole of the pose. It will be a great contribution to incorporate… Read more »

Dagmar Khan

Dear Sarah, thanks for a wonderful blog entry. It is funny enough that I have the same teaching style as you;) Although I am not yet YTU qualified (will be next year though,please God) what I found just by watching Jill’s DVD’S and videos that I actually started to combine Yoga Tune Up techniques with Vinyasa style and the result is truly miraculous.My students are loving it and their bodies are sooo happy! One thing that really inspred me-Eagle pose turned into dynamic pose-how would you do that?And what about the standing poses done on the floor?Could you share your… Read more »

Tune Up Fitness

Hi Dagmar,

Jill has created several techniques to turn the eagle pose into a dynamic one which you’ll learn when you do the teacher training! In the meantime – be inventive! Change the orientation – do standing poses lying down and vice versa – and start to break apart the nuts and bolts of the movement. See what happens!