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Sequences and Transitions: The Key to an Effective Vinyasa Flow Yoga Practice

April 17, 2014

I am fortunate to be able to work and practice yoga at two studios. I have been practicing at one studio (which is near where I work) since last October, and just recently became a part-time/weekend front desk associate at a second one (which is closer to where I live; I love the convenience). In practicing at two separate yoga studios, I have noticed how the instructors at each studio guide their students through the 26 postures of the vinyasa flow. As a result, what has become glaringly obvious to me is something that I took for granted at one studio, yet found completely absent at the other, but it’s a crucial element in any effective yoga practice:

The importance of smooth sequences and transitions from one posture to the next.

In moving from one yoga pose/posture to the next, it is important to synchronize the sequence with the breath (inhalations and exhalations) by preparing the students with the proper preparatory transitions. This is why I love vinyasa flow so much; the flow through all 26 postures, when guided properly by a well-trained and experienced yoga instructor, is truly a thing of beauty. Here’s an example to illustrate my point:

From Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) to Samasthiti or Tadasana (Mountain Pose).

To make a smooth transition from downward facing dog to mountain pose, a skilled yoga instructors guides his/her students to:

Inhale/Look up to the top of the mat/Bend your knees…

Exhale/Step/Hop/Float forward to the top of the mat…

Inhale/Half-way lift or Flat black…

Exhale/Fold forward…

Inhale/Rise or Press up with arms lifted…

Exhale/Hands down to your side or to heart.

Notice the synchronization between the movement and breath? Notice the ease of transition? This is the proper sequencing transition from downward facing dog to mountain pose that I had taken for granted at the yoga studio near my place of employment (as well as the fitness center where I initially began my practice outside of my home), because the instructors there always include it in their vinyasa flow, from start to finish. By contrast, at the studio near my home, I’ve practiced under two instructors there, and in both cases the transition from Adha Mukha Svanasana to Tadasana/Samasthiti was:

[From downward facing dog] Step up to the top of your mat…

Inhale/Flat black…

Exhale/Fold…

Inhale/Lift up…

Exhale/arms down by your side [into Tadasana/Samasthiti].

Notice the lack of any transitional prep or proper sequencing to smoothly float from downward dog to standing?

From Adha Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) to Virabadrasana I (Warrior 1)

Another smooth transition, again, when properly guided by an experienced instructor, is that from downward facing dog to warrior 1. Again, at one studio the instructors have it down to a science:

[From Downward Facing Dog] Inhale/Right or Left leg lifts..

[They might even mix things up by having you coil knee to nose, knee to same/opposite elbow, etc. before, then back to Inhale/Right or Left leg lifts]

Exhale/Step the foot between the hands…

Inhale/Lift arms overhead…

Exhale [Virabadrasana/Warrior 1]

At the other studio, the instructors just takes us from downward facing dog straight to warrior 1 – without any transitional preparation of lifting a leg! I find this latter way of guiding students through a practice much less smooth and “flowing,” and much more disjointed and mechanically choppy.

Since I’ve only been at my new studio for a short time, I’m not sure if it’s in my place to point this out to the instructors and/or studio management at this early juncture. Yet, for someone used to being guided smoothly through a vinyasa flow, the lack of such essential transitional preparatory moves between postures is oftentimes frustrating.

Has this ever happened to you? Please give me your thoughts.


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