Category Archives: Class Breakdown

Yoga Sequencing: Building towards the Peak Pose

When I first began yoga, for many years (yes years) I had no idea there was a rhyme or reason to the practice. It was because I was totally out of my depth and element. The teachers would say things in sanskrit, I was battling a mindful of distracting thoughts and at some point I usually just prayed we would get to the “laying down” part at the end ( I LOVE that part, perhaps more than most).

However, there was one thing I did extraordinarily right. There was one thing I achieved in yoga that most people never have or will.  And that was my attitude.  I have the best attitude when it comes to yoga. My attitude was, and always will be, zero expectations.  I do not wander into yoga demanding anything from it that day.  I don’t care about seeing results, I don’t over analyze what I can and cannot do. I do not hold any hope or expectations  for my teachers. Just carry simple gratitude that they are there to maybe show me just one thing I didn’t know about myself or about yoga before that day. This humility provided me a limilitess enjoyment and engagement with the experience and still provides me the same wonder and awe today.

So as I ventured on to my mat, in this realm of an unknown experience I tried to make sense of it all.  As I got into my certification and training I realized that practice wasn’t just some random poses strung together said by a teacher in half english. There actually was a course to navigate and a linear path.  Each pose helps lead to the next.

In my previous blog I broke down the warm up. Here I will explain what happens after you’ve dropped in and begin to flow.

Sequencing in yoga is a strategy that is implemented to help take all the component parts offered in warm up, to guide you consciously and subconcsioculy towards a peak position.  So basically 1/3 of the way through you’ve already built this pose bit by bit and towards the apex you put it all together.  So it’s not just chaos! It’s a systemic approach.

Hence why there should be zero expectations at the beginning of your journey. Do the work and all will come together.  No matter the time. So an example of a peak position (which could be anything, which is why the practice is so limitless and exciting) let’s choose Handstand.  A good way to sequence a practice around handstand is to break down what exactly is required for this pose.

07/18/2015 Kyle Lardner Beach Shots

Shoulder strength

Fearlessness to go upside down



With these  component elements in place, there are tangible parts of your warm up which have already started incorporating these parts. For example during warming up, downward dog is a wonderful way to build shoulder strength. In addition you are already going halfway upside down (since you are raising your hips above your head). The mind is already experiencing in a very safe way, life upside down.



The Surya A’s and B’s (as mentioned in my warm up blog) are also wonderful series that work nearly every muscle group as well as start incorporating balancing and flexibility.


So even if you don’t put it all together for the peak pose, eventually after repetition and practice, you will have already done everything it takes to take it a step further and begin raising your legs up over your head for handstand.  I’ve noticed in practice that eventually poses reveal themselves to you, through proper breathing, practice and instruction from the teacher.  Which is why having no expectation is the best way to approach yoga.

After one has achieved the peak position, the practice then typically shifts towards cooling down.  We cultivate a lot of heat and energy working towards this goal. In my next blog I’ll go through the details of the cool down.

This is a typical break down for a beginner and intermediate yoga class.

Let your work be the expression of your commitment and all will come. Or as I like to say “Do the work and all will calm.”



Learning Basic Standing Poses

Before I go further into the breakdown of a practice let’s talk about poses. This week I would like to share with you basic standing positions and their benefits.

All standing poses help bring balance back into the body.

Tadasana- Standing mountain pose


This pose is basically standing savasana (you know the final laying down position everyone covets) focusing on the subtle alignment in this pose helps correct posture over time.

Ukatasana -Chair Pose


This pose is a lot harder than it looks. I often tell students to pretend they are sitting on the edge of a chair but still remind them to reach up to the sky like they’re trying to hold on to the sun. It is excellent for strengthening the back arms and legs. It also helps protect the lower back if you inhale the navel towards the back of the spine (not shown in this diagram.)



This is a standing forward fold. It is perfectly ok to have your knees slightly bent in the back. This helps lengthen and stretch tight hamstrings as well as reverse blood flow towards the head.

Ardha Uttanasana


It is the same position as Uttanasana except on the inhale we place our hands on the shins, open the chest as if we are offering our heart to the earth,  simultaneously  lengthening through the crown of the head creates more space in the spine.  As we exhale and lower into Uttanasana we can then surrender more deeply into the pose.

If you begin with these poses, you will have achieved 1/2 of Surya Namaskara. The sun salutations.

The Breakdown of a Warm Up

Each practice begins with a warm up.  If your body is a vehicle the goal is not to rev your engine, but to slip it smoothly, silently and warmly into gear.

It should be so subtle and gentle by the time you’re deeper in the practice your energy raises to match your effort as you begin to flow.
The world is in a constant state of change doing yoga helps you ride your energy waves through it, calmly and wisely.  As if you were a surfer of your own energy.  The ocean is always  in motion. We must keep our bodies moving. When we do, we reset our vibrations and encourage balance and harmony. Your body is an instrument of peace.
So the most important thing to do when warming up is connect to your breath and drop in to the body. By that you send your awareness to the lungs, belly and heart beat. You do so by directing the breath to these places, down the spine over the belly and out through the feet.  Check in with your “self”, your pulse,  your vital energy.
Once you’ve dropped in (become aware of your body) beginner practices start gently working and area of the body. For example, the spine. An simple gentle way to wake up the back is by laying down and rocking your knees side to side.  These slow yet guided movements begin sending energy to and from this area.

Top yoga books, teachings and yoga instructors commonly recommend to start the practice with Surya Namaskar A (the sun salutation)

sun sal·u·ta·tion
plural noun: sun salutations
  1. a series of yoga poses performed in a continuous flowing sequence and intended to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles.

It is a series of poses designed to warm up the body and prepare it for yoga practice.  Some people like to do just 10 minutes of sun salutations in the morning it is a brilliant way to start the day!

Go ahead and give it a try, how may rounds can you do?
Spiritually, teacher Christopher Chapple says: Surya Namaskar is nothing less than the embodiment of the Gayatri mantra, a sacred prayer to the sun. “As we sweep our arms up and bow forward, we honor the earth, the heavens, and all of life in between that is nourished by the breath cycle,” he says. “As we lower our bodies, we connect with the earth. As we rise up from the earth, we stretch through the atmosphere once more, reaching for the sky. As we bring our hands together in Namaste, we gather the space of the heavens back into our heart and breath, acknowledging that our body forms the center point between heaven and earth.”

The Breakdown of a Practice- Breathing

For many years when I practiced yoga, I did not think there was any rhyme or reason to the series of poses the teacher instructed.

I naively almost offered to teach one day in a gym when an instructor didn’t show up- I am so happy someone else stood up and started the class because it would have been hilarious. I honestly had no clue what actually went on!  I thought I could lead others- a yoga teacher must’ve always dwelled deep inside me.

Now, after hundreds of hours of certification… so much thought and sequencing goes into a class!  Over these next series of blogs, I am going to break down for you, pose by pose a beginning yoga class. There are some basic principles that apply to the most general basic yoga class, and like I said, when I started I had no idea what was happening around me and even less understanding of what was happening inside me.


I will start this blog series with a few common breathing techniques. This is usually how classes begin.  In yoga there are many types of breathing techniques  with many awesome benefits! I am going to pick a few of the most common just to get you familiarized.

(in Hindu yoga) the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises.
At the beginning of yoga class it is important to always start deepening and drawing awareness to the breath. It sends more oxygen to the brain and signals the body to operate out of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Viloma 1- Prepares the lungs and expands the intra-costal muscles of the rib cage.

“‘Vi’ means against, Loma means hair, viloma means against the natural flow.
Viloma is an interrupted breathing technique where you pause briefly during your breath. This pranayama gently introduces the concept of expanding the breath and lung capacity through controlling your breath.”-

One begins this practice by laying down, I recommend placing your hands on your lower abdomen.  Direct the air below the navel, feel it rise and swell and pause. Hold for one or two beats, inhale again into the upper lungs and filling the side of the body, pause again. Hold for two beats. Sip in a little more air past the throat, hold at the top of this full inhalation for another two or three beats, and exhale fully out.  Allow a natural round of breath to occur.  And then repeat.

There are variations of this technique but Viloma 1 is very common in a beginner practice.

Ujjayi Breathing: “There is a magnet in your throat that draws the energy up from deep within the well of the lower abdomen.”- Geetaji

This can be done seated as well as implemented in many yoga poses. In english it is called “Victorious Breath”

Inhale through the nose, creating an ocean like sound as it glides past the throat. Upon exhalation ( which is not silent) one makes a sound as if they were trying to fog up a mirror.  This is an excellent way to drop into the body and exhale out any frustrations that you have endured through the day. As well as mentally start to focus on deeper breathing which greatly assists you in the poses.

Breath of Fire- Is a more sophisticated yet commonly used pranayama technique.
This breath is a series of rapid inhales and exhales. This technique may be uncomfortable at first, but is excellent for purifying the blood and helping the nervous system.

 How to do it

Breathe in and out through the nose (or mouth). Pull the abdomen in towards the diaphragm during the exhalation and out during inhalation. This is very fast, as fast as 2 or 3 times per second, and also very loud. The people next to you should be able to hear you. When perfected, the rate should be 120 to 180 times per minute!-