I have always been fascinated with the “under layer”. This fascination later became central to my approach to helping students understand the complex movement patterns and poses found within the Hatha Yoga repertoire.
As a child, a favorite activity of mine was to design images on the light bright: a black screen covered with small round holes. By placing different colored pegs in the holes, you had limitless options. The finale was your own original design lit up before your eyes like a Fourth of July fireworks celebration! For example, you could design an intricate flower with the pegs, but each flower was unique depending upon the colors you selected and how you arranged the pegs. I loved playing with the component parts of the whole flower by coloring in the squares on graph paper with magic markers. I would deconstruct and reconstruct my ideas using a different medium. It was a jigsaw puzzle with endless variations and incarnations.
This deconstructionist method completely mirrors my approach to teaching. When I first began to practice Yoga, I simply wanted to be able to execute the poses. As I practiced, some of the poses and movements were natural and organic, while others were frustrating and impossible to embody. What I didn’t realize, however, was that the gifts of deeper understanding, knowledge, and growth were wrapped up in these complicated and challenging asanas. It was in that realm of frustration that I was forced to confront my “body blind spots” and become curious about the bits and pieces of more complex movement patterns. I began to discover that the poses were like a short story; but before I could read it, I had to understand how to pronounce the vowels and consonants. I then would need to learn how to link those letters into words. The words would then much later puzzle piece their way into coherent sentences that could further down the road emerge as the short story.
Once again, the deconstruction pattern became a framework for embodied knowledge and a method by which I could translate this kinesthetic practice to my students in my new career as movement educator. I became infatuated with muscles names, bony landmarks, and directions of movement, just as I was enamored with color and design as a child. I began to thoroughly pursue a three dimensional embodied sense of the component parts of the poses. This was facilitated during the Level 1 Yoga Tune Up® teacher training with Jill Miller, and solidified further with my continued studies of other somatic disciplines.
On Friday I’ll give you an example of how I deconstruct a pose for my Yoga Tune Up® class!
Learn more about our Yoga Tune Up Teacher Training.
I really love the analogy of learning your letters, sounds, words, sentences into a story. SO MANY pieces to be discovered, understood and pieced together before the final product is complete. I think a lot of students just see that final product and try to get there not realizing the rich layers and components comprising the whole. Love it!
It is very beautiful how you describe your experience getting into YTU. Moste people think just about what’s going on ON their skin, but there are just a few people who really know what is going on UNDER your skin. So YTU for me is a very good experience to understand, that I do not have to be perfect, to get in all that positions to “the end” of my ROM, but to try to let my body flow and heal.
This is a lovely post, Trina. It rings so true with me having just completed my YTU Level One Training. It was so illuminating to dive deep into the YTU approach of the body and see so much under the surface of these complex poses. I love your metaphor that each pose is a story, and the story wouldn’t be full and meaningful without the letters that make up the words and the words that form the sentences. Before this training I was feeling stuck and bored with what I was teaching- now having deconstructed and regressed a lot of familiar movement, I am in awe of what the body can do, and in awe that there is so much to discover if we only listen.
This article really resonated with me! As a newer yoga practitioner, it’s so hard to keep my eyes on my mat and not compare myself to others during a class. For a while I was just going through the poses but now that I’m becoming more familiar with the words and techniques to achieve the poses, it’s a whole new world opening up!
Yes! I absolutely agree. You HAVE to understand how movement breaks down into components in order to find your true “blind, deaf and dumb spots.” And in order to do that you HAVE to think of movement in more than just the frontal plain. I think because we are a forward moving culture that doesn’t like to look behind us or anything like that, we have a very one dimensional perspective of the body. Meaning, we only think of the body from our anterior side. When really when need to be thinking of our body as a that has muscles that function almost in an orbiting fashion and begin and end in different places (our sides, our posterior and our anterior). In this way, it’s simply an easier and more holistic approach to looking at your body and figuring out your strengths, weaknesses, uses and misuses in order to solve an issue.
My very yoga training teacher had us make a grid with each pose, what muscles needed to be strengthened or lengthened to do the pose, as well as other poses–warm up or ramped up–that used the same joint movements. It took a while before I realized this approach was not typical. This method certainly helps me to be successful getting to a goal pose; appropriate muscles are released or awakened. This deconstructing to reconstruct helps me realize there is flexibility and strength in my body….sometimes it needs to be coaxed along.
Now I have more tools than I did years ago, namely theYoga Tune Up poses and Roll Model therapy balls. The YTU context grids and my old grid will merge to create a powerful aid to de/construction.
Thank you for this post; it really ties the YTU approach together for me.
I see myself so much in this post. I found yoga after doing no movement ever…it felt good, but also done improperly tore my body apart. Now I have injuries from yoga! That’s why I’m here: to both help myself and help others learn the body, its blind spots, proper alignment and more. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know!
I can relate completely! For so long Yoga was just a physical challenge. I was constantly striving to perfect the postures and go deeper. Once i started to really study yoga, i realized that the physical aspect is just another factor in the overall understanding. Deconstructing postures has helped me grasp my own personal connection with each movement, and why some were much easier than others!
What a fun analogy with the Light Bright! I also loved the deconstruction and reconstruction ideas with their endless variations and incarnations. I’m thinking about ‘Dynomite’ here and how she’s so terrific at changing her orientation while in a pose 😉 I love that in YTU we are encouraged to play! Using toys – balls, straps, blocks, etc – and our creative minds the possibilities are infinite, which means the learning process is infinite as well – a win/win in my book!
I have always been active, pursuing mainly aerobic activities such as running, skiing, spinning, as well as the jump and injure aerobic classes from the 80’s. All of these activities could be pursued pretty mindlessly, at least that was how I approached them. No one told me what I should be feeling or more importantly how I should be moving. Yoga and later Pilates changed all of this for me. Like Trina, I have become fascinated with the minutiae of the body and how a simple twist or turn can make or break a pose. Teaching Pilates has opened up a whole new realm as I am now working with other bodies in addition to my own. I am constantly being challenged and this has proven to be one of the best ways to learn.
the phrase that keeps on coming up for me lately is “deconstruct to reconstruct” and how it relates to the yoga sutra “the posture should be steady and comfortable” – yoga peeps sometimes oversimplify this concept into effort where you need to effort and let go where you need to let go (which is valid) but perhaps the sutra was intended to go after something deeper in order to help practitioners break down their assumptions about their body and what a pose “should” be in order to highlight and work with what can be changed and accept what can not.
This is a nice article in svadyaya that can help folks get into their body more and some where down the road go deeper into their self.
I have been playing with the idea of how to “deconstruct and reconstruct” as part of my sequencing my classes. I sequence to prepare the students for the poses to come and for the “apex poses” as well as how to counterpose, warm down and make way to savasana. But, what I find often is that students just want to “move” and me delving into the anatomy isn’t exciting for them unless and until they have an “ah ha” moment. I teach in a fitness center, so most of my students are athletes and want yoga to help them to open and stretch stretch muscles to be safe in their sports activities. Right now I am taking the Yoga Tune Up teacher training and I am hoping that this opens my creative powers to find ways to “sneak” in the ability to help them to know their own bodies better, so they get that this gift of awareness comes from themselves and not from me…I am just trying to show them the way.
I get very frustrated sometimes when I realize my body isn’t meant for certain postures. With my limited hamstring flexibility and shoulder rotation I feel very limited in some classes. I found that I am not comparing myself to others in class but see the possibilities with patience and body awareness. Thank you for posting!
It’s been 1 month since I finished my 200 hr yoga training, and I have just embarked this week on the YTU training. talk about a big learning curve. I must admit that my yoga training has not prepared me for all that I am learning this week. Not that I am complaining. Although, I may not feel at this moment to have a well rounded vocabulary in anatomy or all the Asanas memorized by heart . I believe I will be a better Therapeutic yoga instructor because of the YTU training. It makes me realize that my own Blind Spots are opportunities to not only learn my own physical limitation but to question further what mental and or emotional messages may be interwoven within my tissues. Someone recently recommended to me to look into Dr. John Sarno’s book “Healing Back Pain”, I just received it in the mail this weekend, Basically he is a big advocate about the mind and body connection and physical pain (perhaps you’ve already heard of him), but he might be someone to investigate into further. Any ways I just wanted to thank you for your message. It gives me hope that I am on the right path.
I also loved “Light Bright”! I think I became intrigued to go through a yoga teacher training a few years ago to learn just this, how to deconstruct the poses — as opposed to just making shapes and trying to look good performing them, much like my early years at the ballet barre. But there was still some in-depth anatomical information missing (for me anyway), and I believe YTU is going to fill in the missing pieces for a better, safer practice, and to make me a more competent instructor.
Yes, those of us who have been trained in YTU or other trainings that take an inside-out approach need no convincing.
Yet there are still so many people that just want to do the poses. And there are many yoga styles that, although incorporating pranayama, spirituality and so on, seem to have little anatomy and seem to be concerned with the ‘correct’ pose.
While many students clearly understand the importance of building better postural alignment and building both strength and range of motion at the joints, they often have been strongly conditioned to flow from one pose to another even if there alignment is not good, they are over-taxing the should or SI joints and so on.
With an emphasis on performance and goals in our culture, sometimes our greater challenge is not in the specifics of teaching but in countering trends and fads, and those that simply think going through a cycle of prescribed poses is the goal.
In my younger years as a cheerleader and then dancer when choreographing, I had a similar deconstructionist approach.Rather than becoming overwhelmed with the big picture, what the dance said, I was concerned with the shadows, or in other words, the negative space and the transitions. This applies in my yoga flow routines. How do I feel inside when I am moving from point to point. Where is the grace? When landing or constructing, what feeling or sensation does that evoke? Power, beauty, knowledge? All of the above!
This blog speaks to what I have found to be the core of my practice, the breaking down and building up of both physical and mental bodies. Prior to beginning my practice, I did not do much exercise, rarely ate fruits or veggies, never questioned why I felt certain ways or let emotions such as anger have such a large place in my life. Yoga has touched so many aspects of my life that I now understand Shiva the destroyer much better. You have to destroy to create, to die to be reborn, and to let to to grasp.
By reading this article, I remembered years ago when I used to teach art to my daughters classmates at elementary school. As a volounteer mom I had a great experience. Eventhough the instruction was the same, each kid’s work was different and unique. Exactly the same with our bodies: each body has its own abilities and weaknesses. After YTU Level 1 Teacher training I learned to be more specific, and observe my body from defferent angles. Thanks Trina!
Ahimsa–one of the Yamas comes to mind while I’m doing the Yoga Tune-Up teacher training. It means ‘non-violence’ or ‘non-harming’. I think the YTU method embodies this important principle by allowing us to safely take care of our bodies.
I agree Trina! As we deconstruct these poses I’m feeling better about myself as a yoga instructor ,because as a bodyworker intuitively some of these poses just felt wrong on the body, and definitely not for everybody’s body.I love what yoga Tune Up offers accessibility and safe ranges to allow your body to heal or move in a way that it craves
This is a great and interesting concept – deconstructing yoga poses. I really like the idea of breaking down a pose into it’s component parts to see what’s really there. I’m finding through my experiences in the YTU Level 1 training that there is so much more to investigate than I even imagined and this idea of deconstructing is so helpful and intriguing. Deconstructing and peeling away the layers can reveal our strengths & weaknesses in any pose and show us what we have to work with….and what we have to work on…and then the fun really begins when we can take that experience off the mat and apply the same concept to our daily lives!
Deconstruction has always been a very interesting aspect to me in the culinary realm yet I am newly inspired to really begin to deconstruct my yoga poses. When I deconstruct a particular dish and pull out all the individual ingredients, I notice that each component is so unique and delicious all on its own. I see the parallel with extracting the aspects, muscles, bones, joints, organs– all that is incorporated in a particular pose and how individually, piece by piece, the pose pulled apart is even more juicy than the pose put together. Its definitely more therapeutic bang for your buck for sure! Thanks Trina!
Thanks for these, amazing to know.
I think everything we had learn during these 3 days, has been great so far, lots of changes in our bodies. More knowledge about ourselves, the inside and outside of our bodies and the knowledge of how to work with that.
YTU classes with Trina were amazing, I’ve learned a lot, and the YTU therapy ball will help me to improve my muscles, to energize, to relieve tension in a stressful day, for a better understanding of my body, and more…
Looking forward to expierence more with the therapy balls, for a better yoga practice, for a better lifestyle.
THis is so true! After yoga tune up and my teacher training, every time I move in general I think of what muscles I may be working with. I try to see how my body responds to different movements. Also coming from a classical indian dance background it helps me really look at my posture with a different degree of detail. Deconstruction is so important. It is like how you unravel and when you understand each nut and bolt are you able to work towards recreating the perfect posture. Thanks!
This post made me smile as I’m currently in the process of getting through (or rather enjoying!) my Level I teacher training with Jill. This post also made me smile because my son’s favorite book is called “Inside your Outside: All About the Human Body” from Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library. This children’s book presents the magic of the human body and its internal movement in the most playful way. I often think of it because even though Jill’s training is very challenging, it is just as fascinating.
i have completed two different Yoga Teacher Trainings and have been teaching for over a decade but I never really had the training of deconsctructing each pose and inquiring as to WHY one does a particular pose. I am now rather intimidated by my awareness of my ignorance. But ignorance is NOT bliss…. I hope to gain a better handle on the DOMs and muscles in order to ‘grock’ what its all about. Geez – it’s like starting from scratch.
I love that yoga tune-up is a chance to stop and do a self assessment of where we are in our practice, both physically and mentally. When you start to develop a greater understanding of how the body works, you begin to see all of the little ways we have compensated to make the mirror reflect the pose rather than embodying the pose and feeling it from the inside out! After our second day of training, it is obvious to me that I have a lot more exploration to do!
The need to look inward is an essential tenet of yoga that can sometimes be difficult to understand. When we are focusing on the external view of the asana we miss out on understanding what is going on inside of our body to get into the pose. Furthermore, there is so much emotional baggage, stress, and tension that we hold in our muscles. By having a great understanding of how these muscles function and how our bodies work, we are able to have an awareness of ourselves as we move, breathe, and live. Through this awareness we can begin to find the union of body, mind, and spirit and really move through our lives with intention.
Well put. Deconstruction for me as a fairly new student means that a simple modification/variation of a pose gives me the chance to really understand where I should be feeling movement/sensation and then work eventually toward the full embodiment of the pose hopefully without struggling.
I think this is one reason I keep coming back to yoga year after year, month after month, day after day. Every time my body falls into a habit from doing a certain pose so many times, I remind myself that it can be broken down into pieces and the pieces can be played with. Turns out yoga is not at all like a jigsaw puzzle, and way more like a Lite-brite set! You can take the pieces out and put them in a different place, and still have a whole picture. 🙂
In YTU we break a pose down so that some aspect of it suddenly “clicks” and makes it new again. For example, we work with open and closed chains. We change the orientation. We turn it on its head. We add a component or take one away. We practice each little direction of movement separately, then when we put it back together again, the final feels different,not at all like a habit! And that’s why yoga (and YTU) works – we humans are completely ruled by our habitual ways of being, but we are also completely able to identify those habits and change them. They’re as much habits of thinking and feeling as they are of moving and doing. Switch it on, turn it over, make a new design! It’s brilliant!
I am a certified STOTT Pilates instructor, and I love teaching both Yoga Tune Up and Pilates. I’ve also been part of developing Pilates Tune Up and am one of the first YTU Teachers to lead Pilates Tune Up classes and workshops, which you can read more about on my website. Some other somatic disciplines I have explored include: Gyrotonic, Gyrokinesis, Feldenkrais, Continuum, and Authentic Movement. Two books I particularly enjoyed are Life on Land by Emilie Conrad and Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine. Happy exploring!!
Hey Trina – what other somatic disciplines have you studied? My massage therapist from Texas (Pam Bladine) trains/studies/teaches (somatics.org) and I’ve just begun to explore it. Curious if you have suggestions, readings, etc?
While going through my teacher training, my body began to rebel. In the second week of training my range of motion was half was it was when I started. My muscles were so tight. Working with the therapy balls has raised a new awareness about what my body needs.
Yes the underlayer we have so much that is where resides, our samskaras that we often hold in our connective tissues that lie dormant for years. Through yoga tune up the balls get into these soft tissues and bringing the breath to these areas helps bring a lot of our samskaras up to a place of light and awareness. Through bringing these areas that often we hide, or don’t want to talk about into our consciousness then the work begins and the ability to have unconditional love for ourselves and others is tangible. Its funny because people sometimes think the only thing YTU balls do are to loosen up the muscles, fascia etc on a physical plane, and often don’t realize they are doing so much work with the underlayers our true selves.
Yoga for me started as a solely physical experience. I wanted to be able to execute every pose to my best potential. Every session I was competing with myself to perform better, to make sure that physical improvements were made with my body. As my yoga practice continued I began to feel physical relief in areas that had felt painful in the past. This began to fascintate me and make my everyday life easier. As I learned more and more about the physical practices and how to execute them I began to see more to yoga. I began to see the mental clarity that yoga was able to give me. I was able to look past the physical practice and focus on adding the breathe to the movements.To me yoga was more than just feeling pain relief in the body, I began to feel relief in my mind. I realize now that this is a process and the “under layer” is found when your practice is ready, you just need to decide when it is time for you to develop what yoga practice is true for yourself. Find mind and body working together.
I also feel like this whole process of deconstruction ends up to a feeling of letting go. Release tension in certain areas that don’t need to be tense in specific poses. These skills often come with practice as the postures evolve within our body and mind.
As a student of yoga, I have realized how much the process relates to many aspects of my life. I also have begun to compare and contrast my experiences as a child, adolescent, and adult to yoga and self-healing. Each downfall led to a lesson. Each challenging pose laeds to an enlightenment of body and it’s ability in that moment.