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Types of Yoga

A Cyndi Lee Sequence, Deconstructed

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Combining asana and Tibetan Buddhism, the founder of OM Yoga Center gives us a glimpse into how she sequences slow flow vinyasa classes with a contemplative touch.

Want to learn yoga sequencing from a pro? Master teacher Cyndi Lee combines asana and Tibetan Buddhism to create slow flow vinyasa classes with a contemplative touch.

The great yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar once said, “I’ve spent the last 75 years of my life exploring what happens to my sternum when I press my big toe down.” There is so much in this statement that it has fed my yoga practice for years. He was telling us that all of our actions have results, and as yogis, our practice is to pay attention to this cause-and-effect relationship. When the action and the result come together in a harmonious way, we have an experience of yoga—or what Mr. Iyengar called integration.

Asana is the perfect vehicle for embodying this philosophy. When I sequence a series of poses or the full arc of a class, I think about how much our actions matter. I also aim to integrate the practice of vinyasa, defined as “to place in a special way,” with the practice of mindfulness—defined as “a conscious placing of the mind.” Being aware of how you place your body, and mind, on sensations that arise and dissolve will help you evolve your practice from exercise to experience; from separation to integration.

See also This Power Sequence is Better Than Most Weight Lifting Programs

Infusing this perspective into asana practice can happen in the granular actions that make up the poses. In this sequence, we are exploring the difference between position and action by looking at how and where we initiate small essential actions and how they compose basic, as well as more complex, poses. Once you understand the body mechanics, you can begin to recognize that these actions and relationships are everywhere in asana. Instead of focusing on positions, we are focusing on how these positions come together through the application of specific repetitive actions throughout a class.

For example, how you organize your legs in the familiar movements of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) will inform how your legs work in more complicated poses. For example, when a Downward-Facing Dog Split (Adho Mukha Svanasana, variation) is done with special care—when you initiate this action by lifting from the top of the thigh—it can be the seed for a future Handstand (Addho Mukha Vrksasana). If you don’t think about the results of our actions, you might try to do a Handstand by flinging your legs up in the air. This kind of working from momentum generally leads to frustration and drama and rarely to success. Working with specificity and understanding cause and effect also helps us have agency in practice and life, and reduces our human tendencies to grasp and react.

See also Challenge Pose: Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

To avoid those tendencies, I like to establish landmarks throughout class, from beginning to end. In this sequence, I do this by exploring the dynamic movement pairings found in asana practice: inhalation and exhalation, pressing down to go up, tucking and tilting, reaching forward and back, internal and external rotation of the arms and legs. All of these relationships can be investigated within the movement of a vinyasa class. No need to stop the flow and belabor the work. We make tactile self-adjustments that create imprints that are referenced throughout the arc of the class, which becomes a conversation between mind and body. This approach goes all the way through the class until the very end, when finally we simply lie down, let go, and trust the practice.

LEARN MORE

Take Cyndi’s thoughtful and fun six-week online course, Slow Flow: Sustainable Vinyasa Yoga for Life, at yogajournal.com/slowflow.



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Restorative Yoga

A Yoga Therapist Shares The Truth About Trauma

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Yoga therapist and psychologist Gail Parker, PhD, applies restorative practices in an innovative way to help people heal from racial wounds.

Gail Parker, PhD

Yoga Journal: Can you summarize your work?

Gail Parker: I’m a psychologist, a certified yoga therapist, and a yoga therapist educator. I am a lifelong practitioner of yoga. 50 years. As a practicing psychotherapist of 40 years, I pioneered efforts to blend psychology, yoga, and meditation as effective self-care strategies that can enhance emotional balance, and contribute to overall health and well-being.

I closed my psychotherapy practice four years ago, which allowed me to focus all of my attention on the therapeutic benefits of yoga, and in particular on how Restorative Yoga and meditation can be utilized and taught as self-care practices for managing ethnic and race based stress and trauma. I also teach mind-body strategies for reducing stress and healing emotional trauma to aspiring yoga therapists in the Beaumont School of Yoga Therapy in Royal Oak Michigan, the only hospital based yoga therapy school in the nation.

Yoga therapy is a type of therapy—grounded in the ancient philosophical teachings of yoga—that utilizes yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation as self-care strategies to improve mental and physical health and well-being.

See also The Healing Power of Trauma-Informed Yoga Classes

YJ: How do you apply this work to racial trauma (and can you define that term)?

GP: Ethnic and racial stress and trauma refer to the events related to real or perceived experiences of discrimination, threats of harm and injury, and humiliating and shaming events. The terms also apply to witnessing harm to other individuals caused by real or perceived race-related events.

Stress and trauma are stored in the body. Effective interventions involve physical engagement. Restorative Yoga is a form of yoga that is not intrusive; it is receptive. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, it evokes the relaxation response. It not only lessens the inflammation of tissues, it also soothes inflamed emotions. It tones the vagus nerve, which restores homeostasis and supports resilience, aiding in recovery from stress and trauma. Ethnic- and race-informed Restorative Yoga teaches people to experience safety in their vulnerability, which is a new learning for people experiencing the ongoing, cumulative, and recurrent nature of racial stress. People who are consistently marginalized, discriminated against, and profiled already know how to stand in the fire of unbearable suffering. They need the therapeutic experience of resting in safety. They need to learn what the absence of stress feels like. Ethnic- and race-informed Restorative Yoga can offer this experience.

See also Yoga Transformed Me After Trauma and Sexual Assault

YJ: What do you want our readers to think about (as students and teachers)?

GP: Even if you have never had a direct experience of racial wounding, as aware members of the human family we know that when something affects one of us, it affects us all. Regardless of your ethnic, racial, or cultural identity, living in a racialized world has an impact—from the daily lived experiences of stress and trauma that people of color endure, to the experience of white fragility where even a minimum amount of racial stress evokes defensive responses.

The yoga community is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the conversation within and around yoga needs to keep pace with the shifting demographics. Maintaining a culture of silence regarding ethnicity and race make that impossible. We have to engage in conversations about race and ethnicity as relevant topics of conversation. I think yoga is ideal for having these conversations because talking about race and ethnicity is really about each of us sharing our stories with each other. 



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Tantra 101

Tantra 101: The Epic Love Story of Shiva and Parvati

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Meditation teacher Sally Kempton shares the mythology of two Hindu deities that inform Tantra’s tradition.

Just one more setback away from giving up on your goals? Take some inspiration from the epic tale of two Hindu deities—Shiva and Parvati—and the role that persistence played in bringing them together. Sally Kempton—who leads our upcoming online course, Tantra 101—recounts the iconic story of love, devotion, and determination at the center of this tradition’s sacred teachings. 

Watch also Is Tantra Really (All) About Sex?

Want to learn how to tap into your innate power? Join our new online course, Tantra 101: Awaken to Your Most Divine Life, led by meditation teacher Sally Kempton. In six weeks you’ll discover Tantra’s potent teachings and practices, so you can transform every breath, movement, and feeling into a pathway to greater insight and peace. Sign up today!



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Guided Meditation

Tantra 101: A Guided Visualization Practice to Open Your Heart

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Envision your heart cne as a blossoming flower in this beautiful meditation from Sally Kempton.

Want to invite more love and bliss into your life? Try tapping into the sacred source that emanates from your heart center. Here, Sally Kempton—who teaches YJ’s upcoming course, Tantra 101—guides you through a simple practice to deepen your divine awareness: A beautiful visualization of your heart as a blossoming flower.

Watch also How Tantra Makes Positive Thinking Actually “Stick”

Want to learn how to tap into your innate power? Join our new online course, Tantra 101: Awaken to Your Most Divine Life, led by meditation teacher Sally Kempton. In six weeks you’ll discover Tantra’s potent teachings and practices, so you can transform every breath, movement, and feeling into a pathway to greater insight and peace. Sign up today!



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