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Advanced Yoga Sequences

5 Common Poses That Can Cause Injury in Hyper-Mobile Practitioners

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Plus, five smart ways to stabilize your muscles so you stay safe

Sarah Ezrin shows 5 common poses that may cause injury to hyper-mobile practitioners. Ezrin also demonstrates the right way to fix it. 

If I had a nickel for every person that told me they were not flexible enough to do yoga, I would be a very rich woman. The misunderstanding that yoga is all about flexibility is incredibly common and, for certain body types, can actually be quite dangerous.

Yoga is about finding balance: mental balance, as in an even mind, and physical balance, as in a well-aligned pose. This means honoring both flexiblity and strength. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describe this concept as sthira and sukha—stability and ease.

See also Are You Hypermobile? This Sequence Will Help You Build Awareness and Avoid Injury

Unfortunately, with today’s look-at-me social media culture, the poses that get most circulated and come to represent the public’s view of yoga tend to be performed by very bendy people. Yet even though yoga is so much more than that leg-behind-the-head posture, yoga is still equated with flexibility. Students are encouraged to go deeper in every shape. For a person who is already naturally flexible—a body type we call “hyper-mobile”—this can feel quite good, because it is familiar. What’s more, being able to achieve a big shape often feeds the ego, as people may feel they are then doing the pose “well.”

For these reasons, hyper-mobile bodies tend to be attracted to yoga. On the flip side, a stiff person may feel uncomfortable and challenged. The irony here is that it is actually flexible bodies that are most at risk for injury in yoga.

See also Anatomy 201: The Roll-Down Forward Bend That Yogis with Hypermobile Hamstrings Need

People with extreme flexibility tend to move from their joints versus their muscles. Joints are where two bones link together; they are made up of ligaments, which attach bone to bone, and tendons, which connect the muscle to the bone. When ligaments or tendons are over-stretched or torn, they do not heal! This is because they are comprised of connective tissue and have a limited blood supply. Keep stretching out an elastic and one day it will snap, as is evidence by the numerous yoga teachers coming forward with injuries and surgeries (myself included!).

In order to have a sustainable and safe practice, bendy bodies benefit from balancing the lengthening with strengthening. This is going to change the feel of the practice, from one of feel-good stretching to one of stability and control. It will mean not going to the edge of every shape and instead, pulling back to come closer to balance. This may prevent you from putting your feet on your head in a deep backbend (sorry!), but it also encourages you to practice for tomorrow and the day after that—not just today’s Instagram post.

See also Inside My Injury: How I Ended Up With a Total Hip Replacement at Age 45

Here are some classical shapes in which hyper-mobile practitioners tend to over-stretch, and smart ways to stabilize.

5 Poses That May Cause Injury in Hyper-Mobile Practitioners



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Advanced Yoga Sequences

Try This Viniyoga Sequence to Manage Addictive Behavior

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The founder of the American Viniyoga Institute shares insight on Viniyoga practices and a sequence for helping to manage addictive behavior.

Gary Kraftsow

We use the term Viniyoga—an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application—to refer to an approach that adapts yoga practice to the unique conditions, needs, and interests of each individual. This traditional yoga lineage gives each practitioner the tools they need to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.

In Viniyoga, we believe that yoga can effect positive change in each practitioner. This requires an understanding of a person’s present condition, personal potential, and goals. Using the teachings and practices of yoga—including asana, pranayama, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual, and the study of texts—we create an integrated practice to help practitioners move through pain, grief, depression, addiction, and more.

See also Meet Gary Kraftsow: A Leading Teacher of Viniyoga Yoga Therapy

There are four main differences between the Viniyoga approach to asana and most other forms of asana practice:

  1. Function over form. We emphasize the function rather than the form of asana and use the science of adapting the forms of the postures to achieve different results and benefits. 
  2. Breath and adaptation. We focus on breath as the medium for movement in asana, and the science of adapting the pattern of breathing in postures to produce different effects, depending upon the goal. 
  3. Repetition and stay. The use of repetition into and out of the postures, as well as holding the postures, enhances the structural and energetic effects of practice. 
  4. The art and science of sequencing. Viniyoga teachers create practices of different orientation, length, and intensity to suit the intention and context of each practice and practitioner. 

According to Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of most Western forms of the practice, a yoga teacher must strive to understand the true needs of the student and to adapt a practice to serve those needs. He reminded teachers emphatically that teaching is for the student, not the teacher. It is through the choices that we make in sequencing that we are able to create usable and relevant yoga practices for specific students.

Patanjali and other great yoga masters recognized the diversity among people and within the same person at different stages of life. They proposed a range of tools, leaving it up to the teacher to decide which were appropriate. Those tools include asana, pranayama, meditation, ritual, chanting or mantra, and prayer.

See also YJ Interview: Gary Kraftsow

A Viniyoga sequence is a logically ordered, context specific strategy that uses the tools of yoga to actualize an intention. It is effective, efficient, and elegant.

In the following sequence for working with addiction, you will notice the integrated use of all of these tools. Addiction impacts us in a multidimensional way, affecting our anatomy and physiology, emotions and cognition, and behavior. As such, an integrated practice that works on all of these levels is the ideal way to create a positive direction of change in our lives.

Find a comfortable, quiet space and be mindful of your breath—a primary focus of Viniyoga—as you work through the following sequence. As Krishnamacharya once said: “If you’re not regulating your breathing, you’re just doing calisthenics.”

Try This Viniyoga Sequence Below:

About our author

Yoga therapist Gary Kraftsow evolved this approach to yoga from the teachings transmitted by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras, India. Gary is the director and senior teacher of the American Viniyoga Institute; the author of two books: Yoga for Wellness and Yoga for Transformation, four DVDs, and several online workshops, including Pranayama Unlocked, Meditation Unlocked, Yoga Therapy for Depression, Yoga Therapy for Better Sleep, Yoga Therapy for Anxiety, and Asana Unlocked. Learn more at viniyoga.com.

About our Model

Model Evan Soroka is a Viniyoga therapist in Aspen, Colorado. Learn more at evansoroka.com.



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Advanced Yoga Sequences

Master An Inversion Practice with This Sequence Designed by Schuyler Grant

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Schuyler Grant, co-creator of Wanderlust and founder of Kula Yoga Project, shares sequencing strategies for inversions.

Schuyler Grant, co-creator of Wanderlust and founder of Kula Yoga Project

“Meditation in motion” is a recurring trope when teachers speak about vinyasa. I confess to using it regularly myself because it perfectly describes the magical elixir that has kept me hooked on this particular way of practicing yoga for almost 30 years. But using posture, breath, and attention to attain a meditative state is easier said than done. Linking posture and breath isn’t sufficient. There must be intention and intelligence behind sequencing, or flow-style yoga becomes tedious at best, injurious at worst.

My introduction to yoga was Ashtanga Yoga. I loved the practice for its rigor, straightforward approach to spirituality, and the reliable access to a state of flow that came from a set sequence of postures with a priority on the breath. But I developed as many injuries as I overcame and craved more breadth and knowledge. Stage II of my evolution was a love affair with the Iyengar Yoga tradition. Since then, I’ve developed and refined a way of sequencing that artfully weaves the two influences, creating a rigorous practice that heals the body and tones the nervous system: Kula Flow (which is what is taught at the Wanderlust Hollywood studio today).

See also Ashtanga Yoga Sequences

I’m often reluctant to talk about what I love to do on the yoga mat as a brand. For many years, the notion of “branding” yoga completely turned me off; it seemed silly and presumptuous to put a stamp on a particular way of serving up asana. My New York City studio, Kula, had been open 10 years before the issue of branding came up. During that time, students continually asked our teachers what style we taught, and we all said, “Um … I dunno … vinyasa…” And they would say, “No. This is different.”

See also What’s Your Style? Explore the Types of Yoga

Eventually, I conceded that names are powerful, that in its purest sense branding is simply naming and that by codifying my style I could more clearly communicate with students and the teachers I train. What is yoga if not communication? The illumination of the unseen? As a practitioner, this dialogue often involves observing the ego and happens among brain, body, and, especially the breath. As a teacher, you are the guide for students on this same journey.

My hope is that a Kula Flow experience is both visceral (sweaty and present-moment focused) and smart (alignment-heavy and aspirational); that the lower and upper chakras are both well served; and that through the practice we fully express the definition of vinyasa—to place in a special way. Place the mind on the breath. Place the breath in the body. Place attention to the nuanced transition of thoughts, movement, and energy—illuminating the seemingly mundane as exquisitely special.

See also Yoga Hybrids

KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 1

Creating a Kula Flow sequence with a challenging peak pose is like untangling a rat’s nest from my daughter’s hair: You can’t just go at it. You have to tease it out slowly, through patient deconstruction and repetition. In asana, that translates to progressively opening and strengthening the body and channeling the power of the breath. If you slowly practice the shapes and actions that comprise a tricky pose, you might find you have more ability and less fear when you finally do get there. For example, to safely practice Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose, aka Forearm Balance) with a stag-leg variation, you need to open your chest and shoulders and prepare them to support the weight of your body. And you need to both open and engage your hamstrings. You need to wake up your core, and you need to open your hip flexors and quadriceps. Kula Flow is creative, but the posture choices are never arbitrary. There should be a reason behind everything that you put into a given sequence.

KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 2

KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 3

About our Author

Schuyler Grant co-created the Wanderlust festival and founded Kula Yoga Project in New York City. As developer of Kula Flow, she was noted by The New York Times as a go-to teacher for advanced practice. Learn more at wanderlust.com.



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Advanced Yoga Sequences

Seven Stretches You Couldn't Do Without Your Bestie

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Get deeper into your poses and stretches with a best friend or yoga partner.

Warmer weather is here and my bestie and I are taking our yoga practice outdoors. These 7 stretches with a best friend or yoga partner will help improve your flexibility, alignment, and posture. 

See also Build Trust and Learn to Fly with This Therapeutic AcroYoga Sequence

Follow @traveling_yogigirl and @galaortin on Instagram.



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