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Advanced Yoga Sequences

This Home Practice Will Help You Breathe—and Relax—Deeply

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Want to to learn how to really embody your breath in order to take bigger, deeper breaths and rest more fully as a result? Read on.

Ellen Patrick demonstrates different poses where people can take bigger and deeper breaths.

“Inhale, raise your arms. Exhale, fold forward. Inhale, rise up to a half forward bend. Exhale step, or jump, back to Chataurunga.”

As a yoga student, I’m sure you recognize this phrase from just about every vinyasa class in which you’ve practiced. Ironically, the most frequent phrase I hear from students after teaching a vinyasa class is: “I love yoga, but I don’t get the breathing part.” That’s when I usually laugh and say, “Of course you get the breathing part! You’re alive!”

See also This Month’s Home Practice: 16 Poses to Spark Inspiration

All humans inhale and exhale 24/7, but rarely are we aware of the breath in the course of our daily lives. It is during a yoga practice that we have the opportunity to become more aware of our respiratory patterns. We get to look at the quality, pacing, fullness, and texture of our inhalations and exhalations; we get to pause and appreciate the breath’s profound ability to create vitality and well-being. As we become more mindful of our breathing, naturally the question arises: Why do we need to bring awareness to the breath when respiration happens automatically?

The response is three-fold. First, on a physical level, if we coordinate movement with breath, movement becomes more effective and efficient. Then, from a physiological perspective, the breath regulates the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous responses (the autonomic nervous system). Finally, from a psychological viewpoint, this regulation can help us cultivate better stress management techniques. In other words, when we manage the quality of our breath, we have the ability to influence our relaxation responses.

See also How to Build a Home Practice

It is important to keep in mind that breath is three-dimensional. Our lungs expand and condense forward and back, side-to-side, and up and down. By preparing the muscles of the body to support these natural shape changes, your breath capacity will be greatly enhanced, movement will be more effective, and the reactions of the autonomic nervous system will sustain greater resiliency. Because most people have postural and muscular imbalances, the body needs to be primed through yoga postures to achieve maximum results from respiration.

The following sequence will prepare your body for optimal breathing and as a happy result, relaxation. By stretching and freeing up space in tight muscles, strengthening weak postural muscles, and toning the diaphragm—the major muscle of respiration—you will attain a deeper and more efficient breath.

This Sequence Will Help You Breathe and Relax



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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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Advanced Yoga Sequences

8 Yoga Poses to Celebrate Spring and New Beginnings

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Along with the asanas, you might also observe that this time calls for the setting of intentions—and deciding what is important to you.

To me, there is nothing like spring. The sun emerges out of the wintery shadows; the earth blooms with color and expansive energy; and in what seems like an instant, the world opens back up to the idea of fresh starts and new beginnings.

If you listen closely, your body receives nature’s message on physical and subtle levels. The physical body asks for renewal: to release and detoxify stored heaviness from winter through light movement, diet, and increased social interaction. The mind urges you to learn something new and explore different directions than before. The spiritual-self moves you to align with earth’s blossoming energies by envisioning and deciding on how best to move forward into a desired future.

See also Clear Your Kapha This Spring With a 35-Minute Yoga Playlist

Along with the asanas below, you might also observe that this time calls for the setting of intentions—in other words, deciding what is important to you. After the internal and reflective winter months, this is the time to get focused and moving, active and motivated, for everything that is to come. We want to set out on this journey with a readiness to grow, transform, and awaken our utmost potential.

From an energetic perspective, it is best to eat an Ayurvedic diet (mostly green, bitter and seasonal foods), to write down in a journal where you see yourself going, and then practice a mantra of trust (example: I trust the path I am walking), which reassures that your actions will lead and make space for your dreams and intentions to manifest.

New beginnings are the first step toward awakening your fullest potential. Enjoy the asana practice below to feel light, awakened, motivated, and free in your body, mind, spirit, and soul. 

See also These Are the Signs You May Need to Detox ASAP, According to Ayurveda

A Yoga Sequence for New Beginnings 



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