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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 3″ rel=”noopener”>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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