Every Jock Yoga class I teach begins with a basic yoga flow — or ‘sun salutation’ as it’s commonly referred to. Why? This flow begins the process of warming up the muscles in the body in preparation for the remainder of the class. A basic yoga flow through high plank to low plank, to upward dog, and then to downward dog, is also the essential flow that repeatedly links the series of poses in any flow yoga class.
The basic yoga flow broken down in this tutorial helps to warm up and increase pliability of the muscles, energizes the spine, and adds length in the back muscles and hamstrings. The process of moving from high to low plank, and from upward to downward dog also targets the muscles of the upper body and core. It can be practiced on its own as an abbreviated yoga practice, be used to warm up the body for a longer yoga practice, or even as a warm up or cool down stretch for other physical activities. Repeated as many times as you’d like, this flow will gradually build heat, and you may find yourself quickly breaking a sweat!
• • •How To Do A Basic Yoga Flow
Step 1: Stand toward the front of the mat with your feet together (big toe mounds touching—heels slightly apart). Shoulder blades move down the back, and arms extended along your sides. Begin to breathe deeply through your nose.
Step 2: With a deep inhale through the nose, extend your arms forward and up, while trying to keep your shoulders down away from your ears.
Step 3: With an exhale through the nose, hinge forward at the hip creases, bending your knees if you need.
Step 4: Place your hands against your shins and press against them as you actively reach the centre of your chest forward with an inhale. This lengthens and flattens your back.
Step 5: As you exhale, fold forward a bit again and place your hands firmly on the mat (fingers fanned and knuckles pressing down) shoulder width—stepping your feet back to a high plank position. (Keep in mind that the word ‘plank’ indicates that your body is straight as a board—so engage your core and keep your tailbone tucked)
Step 6: Continue your exhale and lower forward and down to low plank (also known as ‘chaturanga’)—elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and are hugging in toward the rib cage. Shoulders and elbows are at the same height, and hands are flat on the mat as far back as your side low ribs/
*Modified option: Touch your knees down to the mat if you don’t quite have the strength to lower while maintaining a straight back.
Step 7: From low plank, flip your feet so the ‘shoelace’ part of your foot is pressed on the mat. With a deep inhale, begin to lift your chest while straightening your arms and pulling your shoulders back and down away from your ears, coming into upward-facing dog. Upward facing dog is primarily a thoracic (middle and upper-back) backbend, and should not cause any compression at all in the lower back. (In upward dog, the pelvis remains near the mat (but not on it) as the chest lifts, and the knees are also NOT on the mat)
*Modified option: If upward dog seems too radical for you, you can choose to lower from high plank all the way down to the floor, and place your hands below the heads of your shoulders. From this position, use your back strength to lift your chest up—without pressing into your hands. As you lift into this small ‘cobra’ position, continue to pull your shoulders back and down away from your ears, and try to articulate that there is no compression in your lower back. (In cobra pose, the pelvis, thighs, knees and feet all remain on the mat.)
Step 8: Finishing your inhale in upward dog, exhale and scoop up through your core area (like someone is lifting your hips toward the ceiling), and then roll over your toes again to come into downward-facing dog—which is essentially an upside-down ‘V’ shape of the body. In downward dog, bend both of your knees and keeping them bent, try to articulate reaching your hip creases as far up and back away from your hands as you can. This lengthens and flattens the back. Keeping the length in your back, you can straighten your legs any amount to lengthen the hamstrings. *It is more important in downward dog to keep the back flat and long rather than the legs straight—so keep the knees bent if you need to* Hold downward dog for five deep breaths.
Step 9: To complete this flow: From downward dog, hop or step forward to the front of the mat again, and reverse steps 4 through 1—lengthening halfway on an inhale, folding on the exhale, lifting all the way up and reaching up on an inhale, and then exhaling to release the arms down along your side again. Repeat this flow as many times as you’d like!
Check back every other week for a new Jock Yoga tutorial by fitness expert Michael DeCorte.