Natasha Rizopoulos's Sequence to Build a Safe Vinyasa Practice

Secure the foundation for a safe vinyasa practice with this thoughtful, challenging sequence from Natasha Rizopoulos.
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Sequencing 101: Protect Your Shoulders in Sun Salutes

Good sequencing is like a good book: it has both narrative and energetic arcs. This means your sequence begins somewhere strategic, it proceeds progressively and methodically toward a peak pose, and then it cools down from that peak toward Savasana. Along the way there are groups (or chapters) of poses that work together logically to reveal the peak pose. Even within each chapter there is a mini peak of sorts—a challenge that the sequence has prepared you for. 

I teach this storytelling method of sequencing by introducing what I call essential elements—movements that lengthen, strengthen, or bring awareness to a body part that needs attention in order for a peak pose to be fully realized. The goal is to introduce these essential elements early on in your sequence, under the simplest circumstances possible, so you can practice them without distraction, then continue to revisit them in gradually more demanding ways as the sequence continues. In the following practice, we’ll work on the essential element of drawing the heads of the upper arms back in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Then we’ll apply this alignment in progressively more difficult poses—Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Chaturanga, and Upward-Facing Dog Pose—over time setting the foundation for more difficult arm balances, like Bakasana (Crane Pose) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana (One-Footed Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya). As you practice, hold each pose for as long as needed in order to discover and imprint the actions and alignment that inform it—this may take between 5 and 20 breaths, depending on the difficulty of the pose. Practice a soft and steady Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath), noticing how the inhalations can create space and openness (especially in the chest) and how the exhalations tend to anchor and lift the lower belly. Observe how each of the poses builds on the pose that came before it. 

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