Updated: Jul 19, 2019
I teach a varied audience – from seniors to beginners to intermediate to advanced practitioners – but always, I start each class slowly while focusing on basic alignments and muscle activation which I remind students to engage throughout the class.
Another thing I take my time in instructing are the transitions from one pose to the next.
My classes are dynamic but slow flowing, and it’s important to me that my students are kept safe and reap as much benefit from the class as I can give.
I can’t encourage my students enough to “feel” how and what their bodies, minds and emotions are doing through transitions. I’ve been to classes where moving from one pose to the next is only a matter of course and people tend to throw their limbs around and use momentum to get them there. When I see this in my classes, I deliberately slow it down and tell them to move with me, forcing them to slow down as well.
Here are 3 reasons to integrate transitions as an important part of the yoga flow:
1. The more gracefully we move, the safer we are. Moving deliberately makes us more aware of where our body is in its space; muscles are engaged to their best strength (contraction) or length (flexion) and joints are carefully articulated to their best movement from pose to pose. Overly using momentum to move in yoga takes us out of this engagement of the muscles and mindful articulation of the joints.
2. We achieve better breath:movement synchronicity. I don’t necessarily advocate 1:1 ratio of breath and movement for everybody on a strict basis. I always tell my students that if they need to take extra breaths than what I instruct, then of course they should breath!
But long, deliberate movements encourage the breath to lengthen as well because it naturally synchronizes inhalation with uplifting movements and exhalations with downward movements. With the lengthening with the breath, the natural pauses also lengthen.
This practise of breath-lengthening helps our body store and process oxygen and carbon dioxide better.
3. It heightens our awareness and makes the flow a meditative experience.
Put reasons 1 and 2 together and the result is greater focus and a stronger sense of presence. Because we’re not rushing, therefore not triggering the release of adrenaline, we remove that quiet and unstated sense of competition between each other or with ourselves. Our minds can quiet down, our emotions can be calm, and the body achieves harmony between effort and ease. All this creates a sense of “coming home” into ourselves, which results in us finding our own “peace in the pose”.
So, the next time you’re on your mat, take it slow during transitions and make them active, important aspects of the vinyasa.