Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Teaching Autumn Yoga Classes that Open the Heart: Sphinx Pose

open the heart
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed 

One of the most creative and rewarding aspects of being a professional Yoga teacher, is the opportunity to sequence your classes in such a way that you allow your students to deeply benefit from this transformational, ancient practice. There are many different themes and intentions that can underlie your choice of various Yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques that you offer to your students. One guiding theme for choosing a certain series of asanas, pranayama practices and relaxation techniques during the course of a Yoga class, is to use the cues of the earth around you, including the wisdom of the changing seasons.

As I write this article, the brilliantly colored leaves of the fall season are gently wafting through the air and settling into patterns along the ground. This is the time of the year in the Northeastern United States when the deciduous trees around us burst into brilliant colors, and then gently drop their leaves to the earth below. As the trees release their leaves to the earth, the seeds below are softly ensconced in a blanket of colorful foliage. By taking into consideration the seasonal aspects around you when you are creating a sequence of poses to teach during a Yoga class, you will help to facilitate your students’ awareness of the flow of the seasons, and you will also help to align and infuse their practice with the wisdom of the natural rhythms of the earth. 

In the autumn season, both the energy of fullness and release are accentuated. A wonderful way to honor this natural rhythm is to teach Yoga classes that open the heart. By opening the heart, your Yoga students will be more able to release muscular tension, negative emotions and rigidly held thought patterns that tend to reside both in the front and the back of the heart chakra, and also in the shoulder, neck and throat areas. When these areas of tension are released, the life force energy is more able to flow unimpeded throughout the entire body and mind. This enhanced flow of prana will facilitate the detoxification process, as well as energize and nourish your Yoga students. 

* Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose is a very accessible, beginning heart-opening Yoga posture that most students can safely and effectively practice. Sphinx Pose can be practiced either during the initial portion of a Yoga class, when your students are flowing through a series of Sun Salutations, or it can be practiced after a series of standing postures and balancing poses. Sphinx Pose effectively opens up the front and the back of the heart area and increases the flow of blood and fresh oxygen throughout the abdominal region. This gentle back bending posture also releases tension in the front of the throat and the back of the shoulders. 

When you are ready to teach your students Sphinx Pose, have them come to a prone position on their Yoga mats and rest for a moment with one cheek flat on the mat. When they are ready, with their next inhale ask your students to place their elbows directly underneath their shoulders with their fingers pointing straight ahead, as they expand fully into Sphinx Pose. As they hold the posture, remind your students to keep their elbows in line with their shoulders and the palms of their hands flat on the mat. Instruct your students to continue to breathe slowly and deeply, as they gently press the palms of their hands against the Yoga mat and progressively expand their heart area with each successive inhalation. 

Ask your students to hold Sphinx Pose for 3 to 5 complete breath, and then release the posture with their next exhale and rest the alternate cheek flat on the Yoga mat. When they are ready, repeat Sphinx Pose two more times. At the end of their practice of Sphinx Pose, you may want to recommend that your students slowly move back into Extended Child's Pose, in order to release any tension that may have built up in the lower back area, during the practice of this gentle back bending posture. Before continuing on to the next Yoga posture, ask your students to come to a kneeling position on their mat and quietly reflect on the expansive quality of Sphinx Pose. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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parvezbdjsr said...

A wonderful way to honor this autumn natural rhythm is to teach Yoga classes that open the heart, By opening the heart, your Yoga students will be more benefited.

Mary Wilson said...

Sphinx Pose is a very accessible, beginning heart-opening Yoga posture that most students can safely and effectively practice. Thanks for sharing this valuable article.