Beginning Yoga Class
Teha's introduction to yoga with tah
Get a behind the scenes experience with Tah and her daughter Teha as Tah inspires Teha in her first private yoga session. An intimate sneak peak at a real private session. The real beginning of any yoga practice is breath.
Teha and Tah mother Daughter Yoga sequence - great manual to use for beginning students during private sessions!
Here we will start with a true beginner yoga sequence with Tah and Teha. Teha does not practice yoga so this is a great example class for teaching someone who is very new to asana practice.
The set up / breathing:
Sukhasana (easy pose)
Start with "easy pose", which is Sukhasana in Sanskrit. Props are a great way to start a beginning yoga sequence. A folded blanket serves as a cushion you can sit on to lift your sit bones up and let your knees drop down. You can then stack the feet comfortably, let your torso grow tall and sit into it. As your body grows taller you lift your heart and let your chin drop down and lean back sightly. Close the eyes and breath in and out through your nose. Beginning Pranayama here, in order to set up a meditative mood. Feel your belly with your hand, expanding with each inhale and contracting with each exhale. Being aware of the students capabilities / energy level is important, you must try to tailor the class to the appropriate level of the student(s).
This can be difficult to perfect at first but it is the key ingredient in steady asana and meditative practice. Inhale and the belly fills up, the breath then moves all the way up the chest. Once the breath is at the top, you let it out slowly through your nose and you’ll release the top part of the chest, the middle part of the diaphragm, and then all the way down the belly. Imagine you are filling up a jar and then exhaling all of the liquid. Let the shoulders relax with the eyes closed and allow yourself to fall into a calm, meditative state. Try doing this six times, moving the energy up through the chest and back down in a cycle.
Visualizing the breath as energy moving up and down the spine in your body is a very effective way of calming the mind and the physical body. You can also try this with the exhale out of the mouth. Then try putting your hands on your throat to actually feel the movement of breath moving up and down. You will then start to hear that snoring, ocean like sound that is the “Ujjayi’ breath.
Ujjayi breath is also called the “victory breath” and it is expansive, and allows movement of oxygen more rapidly. You do not have to the breath like this all the time, but sometimes in a difficult asana or when practicing deeply, it helps with the energy flow.
Now we will move onto some shoulder work. Inhale, reaching the arms up high. Then flip the palms inside out and exhale. Inhale again and C curve to the right (side stretch), come back to center, inhale, and then curve to the other side.
Now inhale, come back up. Exhale and release the hands, let them come behind you and interlace them again. Push down, let the shoulders roll back, chin into the chest and pull up. The chest opens in a heart opening pose with this.
After you do this one more time soften the hands and plant them behind you. let the fingertips point towards your hips. Now lean back, bending the elbows, and circle out the chest. Inhale forward, and exhale back. Bend the elbows a little bit and let the heart move. Switch directions next. Stop in the center and walk your hands forward now, continue to reach forward with hands on the ground. You can rest something under your forehead if you cannot reach the floor with it. Just relax into the pose.
Teacher note: Maybe apply a little healing touch to the back. Simulating the breath moving up and down the spine with each inhale and exhale.
Seated Side Bend with Leg Extension:
Parivritta (Revolved) Janu (Knee) Sirshasana (head)
Now roll up and straighten one leg and keep the other one bent in as we move into the next posture. Inhale and bring the right hand to the left knee. Then the left arm comes up to the sky and then over to the side for a lateral stretch. Vitality through the right foot. Feel the shoulder roll forward and the ribcage roll open. Keep the Ujjayi breath. Now come back to the center and bring the arms high and exhale, letting the torso come forward again toward the ground. Vitality out through the right foot and then the knee is extending. Gently walk the fingers toward your right leg and then tap the right hip back just a little bit. Then bring the arms high, just so you feel the length through your torso and then exhale, let that melt all the way over the right leg.
Remember the breath. Inhale, lengthen out. Let your heart lift up. Exhale, gently release.
Then switch sides. Right leg in and left leg out. Left arm comes high, and then reaches for the right knee. Left hand to the right knee. First bring the right hand behind you to straighten up the torso, lift and turn to look over your right shoulder. The chin stays down a little bit. Inhale, bring the right arm high and up and over for that twist, where the arm is up.
You may notice that one side is harder, which is completely normal in asana practice. One of our goals in asana practice is to balance the body, but it will never be symmetrical, so be patient with yourself.
Let the pinky of the right hand roll downward; this whole line follows the line underneath the arm and into the ribs. And it is perfectly ok to stay high, no need to go low with the arm. The extension with the exhale is what you want to feel.
Next you want to roll upwards and bring the arms up with you to center. Then drape the arms and torso over the left leg. This is getting into that right hip. Take a few long breaths here and then come up. Open up that right leg and feel the torso move forward.
Parivritta Upavistha Konasana (Revolved Seated Angle pose) &
Upavistha Konasana (Pull and Spiral)
Teacher Note: Now you can do this with the student. This is a great Thai maneuver from our Thai therapy manual. You will work together on this one. I am facing the student with my legs apart in the same position. Now we will grab each other by the right arms so they are diagonal. Keeping vitality through our feet. Feel the center, keep the ribs knitted in. Lift the left arm up. Inhale and we each curve over to the right facing each other. Now we can pulse with each breath. Breathing together works well.
What does “pulsing” mean?
Now we can switch sides. The transition is important. Feeling the movement in and out of the postures. Same thing on this side. Now for a little more Thai therapy.
Teacher Note: Second Thai maneuver. I am going to crisscross my arms while the student keeps theirs open. I am then going to pull them in forward and then around. And go back and forth. This creates a beautiful rhythmic circle around right from the base of the spine. Then from the center I can pull the student forward towards me. Flex out through the feet. Then circle it out going in the other direction. Then we can pause in the middle, flex. Let the toes pull up and remember to breath.
Cat Cows & Lunges:
Marijaryasana (catpose) & Bitilasna (cowpose)
Next we will do some cat/cows and lunges. Gently use your hands to help and pull your legs in. Roll over on your mat onto all fours. Do some cat cows first. Round your back, bring your chin to your chest. Check in with your energy line. You want the energy line of your palm right underneath your shoulder. Then round again, letting the belly come all the way up. Head drops. And then just move forward and back with your body. Breathing. This helps with opening of this part of the shoulders. Then pause in the middle and drop the belly down to let the heart move forward. Inhale and then slowly exhale to round and squeeze. Repeat this. Inhale, let it drop, exhale, slowly push into the ground, round, round, and squeeze. Inhale to drop, exhale to squeeze. Repeat a couple more times.
Banarasana (Hip Circles)
Now come back to neutral spine. Center the left knee just underneath your hips a little bit for more stability. Take that right knee and lift it and circle it out. So you are circling out the hip. Then switch directions with the hip, lifting high and low. Now move the right hand the left and see if you can plant the foot forward. Move the hands forward. Settle into the hips. Feel the length through the top of the head, chin drops, shoulders roll down.
Now find your right hand on your knee. And then just turn. Keep the left hand down and rotate. Then the right arm comes up. This will begin opening into the shoulders.
Teacher Note: A great adjustment to make here is to make sure the arm is right off the shoulder and the heart is opening. Chin can drop down, because you want the chin and the back of the neck in line with the spine.
Now you can tuck the back tow under and straighten out the back leg. Take a breath and exhale for movement. And now do a little deeper. Keep your eyes open, looking upward just gently. Inhale and right hand comes down to the ground on the inside. The knee comes back down and take the right leg back and set yourself into child’s pose. Let the hips come all the way back to your heels. Then just feel that extension through your upper back. Soften the hands and relax the body.
Now repeat the same sequence on the other side. Start on all fours again. Do a little cat and cow in between, breathing in and out. Rounding and squeezing. Fill the lungs and the ribs and then let go. There is no right or wrong way to do this, just however feels natural with your breath.
Maybe do a “barrel roll here”?
Center the right knee to do this same sequence on the other side. Circling the left knee out. Push into the hands. Switch the circling direction.
Now hover that left foot forward and stamp it down. Then sink into the hips. Keeping vitality in this left foot, you are pressing as the heart lengthens and the chest moves forward. Left hand to the knee, inhale and exhale, turn gently to open that up. Left arm high. Keep the chin down, feel the length. Tuck the right tow under and take an inhale. Exhale to straighten. Push into the right hand, and push into the left foot. Five breaths is a good amount to hold a pose for. Exhale to release and step back into child’s pose like before. Sit back on the heels and rest.
DownDog - Child’s Pose - High Plank:
Down Dog Adho (downward) Mukha (face) Svanasana (svana=dog)
Now a couple down dogs to child’s pose to high plank. Start with down dog, tucking toes under, walking hands forward. Push into the hands, hips come high, open up and sink down. Feet can come in closer and apart from each other. It is ok to bend the knees also. Feel the shoulders open up and the head relaxes. Spread the fingers wide.
DownDog is one of the staple postures in yoga that is so good because it stretches everything out; the whole back, the back of the legs. Shake the head yes. Now child’s pose. Stretch the arms forward.
Balasana (Child's Pose)
Teachers Note: Soothing the back here is a nice touch. Applying some healing touch. Palming up and down the back. Check in the with practitioner to make sure this feels alright. And another downdog, tucking the toes under and pushing the torso nice and long, bending the knees a little. Toes should be coming right off the hips. The heels do not have to be down all the way either. Spread the fingers wide and try and feel the pressure into the inside edge of the hands. Ujjayi is so important throughout this entire practice so don’t lose it even towards to end of the sequence. Now back down to child’s pose and rest.