Monday, September 04, 2017

Closing Yoga Classes in New Ways - 3 to Try

shavasana
By Kathryn Boland

Have you noticed yourself, or your own teachers, closing classes without smooth transitions from peak poses or significant hip-opening postures into Savasana? Perhaps you’ve served students for whom the traditional Savasana shape, Corpse Posture, is not sufficiently grounding or comforting? In a prior article, I offered some poses that can be fresh ways to open up classes, apart from the common Child’s Pose and Easy Pose, that still effectively open up classes.

The same is true of closing classes; sometimes there can be a lack of grounding, de-escalating poses that effectively lead into Savasana, and the traditional Corpse Posture shape fails to lead some students into the integration and calm that Savasana can offer. Read on to learn of three such poses that can be incorporated into the ends of classes, as lead-ins to Savasana, or be the final posture for students to take in class. Namaste! 

1) Viparita Karani

This mild inversion allows for length and ease through the spine, as well as a mild inversion effect (if Inversions might not have effectively fit into the class sequence prior to just before Savanasa, and/or deeper inversions wouldn’t be appropriate for the students at hand). You can guide students to their own section of wall, just as one might when teaching Headstand, Handstand, or Scorpion Pose.

In fact, Viparita Karani could be an effective way to draw energy down after cueing such poses. You could also have students place blocks underneath their sacrums and stay right where they are. If not from those deeper inversions, you could guide students into Viparita Karani from supine poses such as Bridge Pose, Supine Twist, and Figure Four. Guide students to let their backs melt into their mats, and that release to seep into the front side. Notice the breath and heart-rate begin to lower, and observe the quality of thoughts.
           
It is easier, for most people, to keep the mind focused on the practice when balancing or sinking deeper into Warrior II Pose. For many people, the true challenge of practice comes with maintaining the mindfulness in less active poses. From Viparita Karani, one can smoothly enter into Apanasana (Knees-Into-Chest Pose), Happy Laughing Baby, or right into Savasana. Allow this pose to be a smooth bridge from the cannon of yoga postures in a class into its final resting pose. Or, if against a wall, students could take final relaxation right from here.

2) Supta Baddha Konasana

Guide students to come unto their backs, if they’re not already there. Supta Baddha Konasana can be entered into smoothly from poses including a supine twist variation, Bridge Pose or its supported version, Fish Pose, or Apanasana. Have them put bottoms of feet together, letting the knees fall wide - with blocks or a rolled/folded blanket just above the backs of the knees (very lower thighs).

That supportive prop use isn’t essential to practice the pose, but it’s advisable for anyone with lower back and/or hamstring complications. And it can feel restful for anyone, contributing to the effect of lowering the heart rate in order to have a truly integrative, rejuvenating Savasana. As this article overall is arguing, our bodies and minds cannot just immediately enter that state of final relaxation. We need to ease into it. As instructors, it’s our task to create the conditions in which that can happen.

Energetic cues, such as softening the shoulders, face, and back body, can help that calming process. Have students face their palms up to help the shoulder girdle release. From here, to enter Savasana, have students simply lengthen their legs. If they have props underneath the lower thighs, they’ll need to inch them down to stay in the same place in the body. Or, if they have that blanket roll or fold there, they can take a final relaxation here (because of gravity’s effect, taking the shape unsupported for a long period could be too extreme of hip and inner thigh-opener).

3) Happy Laughing Baby/Floating Baddha Konasana
           
Have students, also on their backs, take their knees outside of their side bodies (towards their armpits, ankles stacked over feet). Guide students to have their feet parallel, toes behind heels. If that’s inaccessible, flexibility-wise, have students take a “floating Baddha Konasana”, knees very wide and bottoms of feet together in the air. If you notice that students technically can enter Happy Laughing Baby, but have to lift their heads and/or lower backs to do so, advise them that it’s better for them to take Floating Baddha Konasana.

Struggling just to enter the pose will detract from the ease we mean to build, to lower the heart rate and generally activate the parasympathetic nervous system, as we enter Savasana. As with the two prior options, guide students to notice any remaining tension and attempt releasing it with the exhale. From here they can take a Supta Baddha Konasana, Viparati Karani, or go right into Savasana.

Floating Baddha Konasana could be a final relaxation shape, if comfortable and relaxing for a certain student, yet it might be an extreme amount of stretch if sustained. Supta Baddha Konasana could be a more mild option here. They can know that all they need to do here is breathe and be, just as they are. Their practice, for today - whatever it was - was enough.

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2 comments:

parvezbdjsr said...

Viparita Karani, Supta Baddha Konasana & Floating Baddha Konasana are three such poses that can be incorporated into the ends of classes, as lead-ins to Savasana, or be the final posture for students to take in class.

Mary Wilson said...

Floating Baddha Konasana can be a final relaxation shape, if comfortable and relaxing for a certain student, yet it might be an extreme amount of stretch if sustained.