Hi guys,  Kris from Custom Fitness here, your personal trainer in Amarillo. Talking today about how to get more out of your yoga flow. If you’ve done yoga, you know that the flow is the down dog, plank, to croc, to updog, then back to down dog. You body moves through a cycle that includes stretching and a good warm-up. The flow provides lots of great benefits to your body. Sometimes, though, as you’re moving through the cycle you feel a little clunky. Especially if you’re new to yoga, you may not feel like you are as strong or as flexible as the postures require. There are a lot of ways to tweak the flow to improve the experience. If you have questions about how to improve your flow, give us a call: 806-322-3188.

Most important to remember when you enter any yoga setting, (at your house, a small group class, watching a video, etc.) is that you listen to what your body is telling you. Set aside those feelings of competition with the people around you. Classes are comprised of yogis of all levels. If you are a beginner entering a yoga class, you may begin to feel uncomfortable in your own body. Thinking, “well they are more flexible”, “they can do that pose no problem”, “why am I the only one out of breath?!”.  Each person starts at their own level and build from there.  Yoga is not a competitive environment.

In our yoga classes at Custom Fitness, the room is so dark you can’t see the other participants. The light is only bright enough to view the instructor. We really want to eradicate that ego when people come onto the mat, so they can find feelings of comfort in their own skin and their abilities that day. Often, participants really appreciate practicing in the dark because it makes it easier to get out of their own heads and just focus on the quality of the movements they are performing.  As a personal trainer in Amarillo for almost 17 years, I notice that when clients step into the dark room, a feeling of relaxation starts to circulate. People stop worrying about what others are thinking of them and just sink into the present moment.  It’s quite a sight to see.

Believe it or not, anytime you show up to a workout class the only person looking to see what you are doing is the instructor. The people around you, you believe are judging you, are actually so focused on themselves that they could care less what others are doing around them.  Just food for thought next time you go into a group environment and start to feel inadequate. Focus on what you CAN do and start at YOUR level that day.

Back to the yoga flow. The thing that will really make a difference here for you regardless of your level is your attention to form.  I will try and explain what to watch out for as we go along.  Let’s begin with down dog. The easiest way to enter this pose is either from child’s pose or from a plank. I will be demonstrating the plank, so I can make sure the camera can see my whole body. Start off in a tall plank. Shoulders, wrists, and elbows are in one long line. Press back through the hips and press the heels down.  A lot of people make the mistake of when they push the hips back they will go up on their toes. This causes the back to round and the body weight to shift to the fingers. Your goal is for your heels to be on the ground and your weight to be evenly distributed in the heel of the palm.  Press your chest back, lift the tailbone, as you lower the heels to feel a long stretch through the body.

Moving onto croc, I will show you the modified version first. Press your chest forward and drop down onto your knees – making this position a little bit easier. You want your shoulders and hands to be in one long line here.  The biggest mistake people make when transitioning from plank to croc is they will bow their elbows outward because their hands are placed too wide. Having your hands underneath your shoulders will keep you in the correct form so you can have your elbows move backward towards your ribs.  

Engaging your core, lifting your hips, push the elbows back to shift the body forward, then lower down.  If you are modifying, you can bring your body all the way down to the floor. If you aren’t, try and hold your body approximately one inch off the ground.

From there, press through the heels of your hand to bring your upper body..well, up, into the up dog pose. Thighs can still be touching the ground if you are modifying.  If not, see if you can’t lift your thighs a little higher. Press the shoulders down and away from the ears. Relax your lower back.

Curl the toes under, keep the core engaged, and press from the heels of your hand back into down dog.

Modifying as a beginner is really your best bet. A lot of people are nervous to modify, but there’s no reason to be. It doesn’t change the end result. It doesn’t make you less of a yogi. It makes it to where you can perform the motion correctly from the level you are currently at. If you can’t do the movement correctly, you might as well not do it at all because you’re more likely to get hurt. We want to make sure people are safe while having a positive experience.

If we want the full, unmodified, form go back to your plank then move to the down dog. Really looking for the long body stretch. Making sure the feet are not more than hip width apart and the heels are pushed down.

Press forward into the tall plank. Elbows need to kiss the ribs as you transition into croc. You can make the transition easier by tipping the nose down first or a little more difficult by lowering the body all at once. Either way you should stop about an inch off the floor and hover. Notice that the hips are still slightly elevated and hold here. Scoop the crown of the head followed by the shoulder and upper back into the up dog position.

Intensify the up dog pose by balancing on the heels of the hands and the top of the feet. Thighs, knees, and shins should be off the ground for more of a challenge. Shoulders are down, low back relaxes, core is engaged. From here, curl the toes under and lift to down dog.

So what is the point? Some people see something like that and say “wow! That’s a lot of things my body can’t handle. Why would I do something like that?”  Well, you will stretch out the front and back of the body. You will build strength in the chest, the arms, the shoulders, the upper and lower back. You will elevate the body to a whole new level of fitness functionality just by doing a few repetitions of that yoga flow every day.  I love to add the flow into people’s warm-ups or cool downs. This progressive flow provides a very different stretch for the body than you could get with just static stretching (i.e. toes on the wall for a calf stretch). Moving through this cycle provides an active stretch and the body will thank you.  

I hope that helps you out. After work, go throw on your yoga clothes and try it out. If you’d like some more help from us or would like to try out our group, semi, or private training, give us a call at 806-322-3188 or e-mail us at info@customfitness.biz. We would be happy to help you out. At Custom Fitness, we are YOUR personal trainers in Amarillo, Texas. Have a great day.