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Practice with Clara

Space Through Strength (47 mins) Slow Flow

Smooth, slow, and heat-building, this class opens the chest, shoulders, and heart while strengthening the core, glutes, and back muscles to prepare the body for backbends. You’ll move through a series of standing poses to build strength and test your balance before coming down to the ground for core and glute strengthening with an exercise band. Using an exercise band around the legs and feet creates resistance and challenges your endurance!. With equal parts of strengthening and softening, this class promises to engage and lengthen muscles strained from sitting at a desk all day.

Style: Slow Flow Vinyasa

Duration: 47 – min

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Props: 1 Block, 1 circular exercise band

Focus: Backbends, glutes, core, and back strengthening.

Location: Viva La Familia Productions Studio, Vancouver BC

An intermediate/advanced class, this sequence builds strength in the abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and thighs, with modifications to suit yogis at any level. The general theme for this class is to work with the breath and go slow. The slower you go, the more integrated the movements will become. Slower movements also target smaller muscle groups to get the deep core stabilizers. As you shift into the poses and movements with the circular exercise band, go at your own pace and find a rhythm that serves.

When we create space, there’s a sense of surrender in the heart. Anahata is the fourth chakra and located at the center of the chest. With Anahata chakra, we explore themes such as love, compassion, forgiveness, surrender, devotion, and healing. When we move from our heart, we work from a place of surrender, softening to receive the world around us. A practice for Anahata chakra is to work from a place of devotion, devotion yourself to someone or something outside of yourself. Another way we work with Anahata chakra in the practice is to breathe more space around the heart to soften around the edges of the chest and mind. In this way, we might move through life with a sense of serenity.

Imbalances or blockages in the heart chakra result in feelings of sadness, grief, despair, loneliness, and isolation. This may feel like tightness of breath or a tightening across the chest. To balance the heart chakra physically, we strengthen the back body and core muscles of the belly while opening the chest and shoulders to create space and strength. With a deep inner strength, we create a boundary to soften and stretch. Without a connection to our core muscles, back bending may cause strain in the lower back. We strengthen the deep core and back muscles to support back bending. In this way, we might also think of strengthening our hearts by doing the things we love, being compassionate towards ourselves and others, and extending forgiveness to ourselves and others. Once we are strong in our hearts, we may be more open to receive the world around us and not feel so restricted, anxious, or sad by the events in our lives.

This sequence features Prana Vinyasa Wave Theory Sequencing that was developed by Shiva Rea. In this style of sequencing, you’ll move through a progressive flow of poses that build toward a peak pose or a peak flow. The Prana Vinyasa Wave Theory uses movement patterns so that students mimic the style of movement over and over, adding layers to the flow.

Opening / Warm – Up 

  • Neck rolls
  • Shoulder opening/rolls
  • Cat/cow from all fours
  • Anahatasana (heart pose)
  • Tabletop with knees hovering to build strength and heat
  • Downward dog
  • Standing forward fold knees bent to roll up to stand

Wave 1: 

  • Low lunge, hands at the back of the head, elbows wide
  • Long lunge with a wide-armed twist
  • Downward dog
  • Plank pose
  • Cobra pose: hands-on and off the ground builds strength in the back
  • Low lunge with arm circles opens the shoulders and chest
  • High lunge with arm variation moving torso to thighs
  • Standing forward bend with arms clasped at the back

Wave 2:

  • Chair pose
  • Transition: cactus arms in chair, balance on one foot, take the opposite foot to the sky with the knee bent. This balancing posture strengthens the hamstrings as well as the glutes and the outer thighs
  • Warrior 3
  • High lunge
  • Plank pose
  • Updog or cobra pose
  • 3-legged dog
  • High lunge with a prayer twist
  • Seated spinal twist
  • Seated happy baby pose
  • Navasana (boat pose) variations
  • Halasana (plow pose) stay seated if you have neck issues
  • Chair pose

Core work with an exercise band

Meet standing using your elastic band around thighs squats to strengthen the outer hips and glutes. Glute work is excellent for lower back issues as it creates strength in the lower abdominals to support the sacrum (bottom of the spine).

Move onto hands and knees in tabletop and adjust the band, so it’s on the thigh of one leg and the back of the knee on the other leg. Pump the extended heel toward the sky that has the band on the back of the knee. This movement strengthens the hamstrings and the gluteal muscles on the extended leg. Repeat on the other side.

Come onto your back for core work with the band, shift the band to the bottoms of the feet. Take opposite elbow to your knee for bicycle legs as you twist, targeting the obliques. Bicycle legs with the band strengthen the core and the glutes. Press through the balls of the feet to feel more resistance. Go at your own pace and breathe. Knees to chest and rest once you’ve done this cycle.

Take your band to your thighs for a variation of bridge pose and pump your knees out to either side. This exercise strengthens the outer glutes. Stay in this shape with your buttock lifted from the ground and sway your bottom from side-to-side to target all the gluteal muscles, the bigger muscles on the back body, and smaller muscles on the side.

Backbends with an exercise band 

Rollover on to your belly with the band at your lower thighs and come into Shalabhasana (locust pose) to strengthen your back muscles, glutes, and abdominals. Move from locust into Dhanurasana (bow pose) with the thighs anchored on the ground. Use the resistance of the band to strengthen the legs and get more lift of the torso away from the ground. Thighs on the ground give the lower back more space as you lift into bow pose.

Cooling / Closing Sequence / Savasana

Remove the band and come to your seat and pause for a moment to soften and breathe, feeling all the muscles you’ve worked thus far. Make your way back to your belly for a shoulder opening from the floor: cactus your right arm out to the side, take your right cheek to the ground, and roll onto your outer right hip. You’ll move onto the right side body, perhaps taking your left foot on the ground to anchor. This pose opens the pectorals on the side where the arm is in a cactus shape. Use your left hand to support as you turn your chest to the left. Repeat on the other side. Rest on the belly and let your abdomen soften on the ground or take Balasana (child’s pose).

Come onto your back and take a block at an angle to the back of the head. Gently roll your head side-to-side to massage the occipital ridge: the line at the back of the neck. This pose isn’t for everyone, so feel free to come onto your back for Savasana (corpse pose) and rest. The block is a great way to release any tension at the back of the neck. You can roll your head or find a spot that feels good and breathe. Savasana is your last stop.