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A lot of us tend to fall into a love-hate relationship with the transition from Plank to Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog. When done correctly and safely, these poses, collectively known as “a vinyasa,” help build strength in our shoulders, arms, and upper back. But when we’re new to yoga or nursing an injury or just plain tired, we can experience soreness and even injury from repeated transitions through Chaturanga. (There’s a reason a vinyasa is known as “a shoulder shredder.”)
The following yoga practice takes that transition entirely out of the equation while still moving you around the mat to deliver the experience of a vinyasa yoga flow. Perhaps as you open up your hips and side body without exhausting yourself, you’ll be better able to focus your awareness on the other definition of vinyasa, which is connecting your movement with your breath.
A no-Chaturanga yoga practice
There are so many ways that you can make this flow your own. Listen to your body, pay attention to your breath, and modify the practice as you need. I move through it with one breath per movement but feel free to linger in each pose. If you find some of the transitions challenging, try taking yoga blocks beneath your hands. You can repeat the simple sequence multiple times to create a short practice.
Three-Legged Dog to Fallen Triangle
Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Bring your feet together and lift your right leg toward the ceiling for Three-Legged Dog. Then bring that leg underneath and across your chest before you place the outer edge of your foot down to the left of the mat. Reach your left arm toward the ceiling in Fallen Triangle. You can stay here for a few breaths or play with the shape by bending your back knee.
Fallent Triangle to Low Lunge to Pyramid Variation
From Fallen Triangle, transition back to Three-Legged Dog and then step your lifted foot forward in between your hands, making sure that your feet are hip-distance apart. Stack your front knee over your heel and keep your back knee lifted for Low Lunge. Then shift your hips back into a long Pyramid Pose with your hands framing your front foot and your back heel lifted. If the mat is far away for you, come onto your fingertips or place blocks beneath your hands.
Pyramid to Warrior 2
From your long Pyramid Pose, bend your front knee to take it back over your heel and turn your back toes to face the long side of the mat for Warrior 2. Lift your chest and stack your ribcage over your pelvis. Reach your arms out to the sides.
Warrior 2 to Reverse Warrior
From Warrior 2, reach your front arm back for Reverse Warrior while keeping the bend in your front knee.
Reverse Warrior to Side Lunge
From Reverse Warrior, come back upright, straighten your front leg, and pivot on your front heel to turn your toes toward the long side of the mat. Bend your back leg as you lower your hips toward the mat to come into Side Lunge or Skater Lunge. Make sure the edges of both feet are parallel to the short side of the mat. Keep a long spine and track your left knee over your middle toes.
Side Lunge to High Lunge
From Side Lunge, sweep your right arm overhead and down to place your hand on the mat near your left foot. Pivot to face the back of the mat, coming onto the ball of your right foot. Find your balance and reach your arms alongside your ears for High Lunge.
High Lunge to Warrior 3
From High Lunge, lean forward, sweep your arms back alongside your chest, and lift your back leg to come into Warrior 3. Keep your lifted toes pointing toward the floor and your pelvis in a neutral position.
Warrior 3 to Figure 4
From Warrior 3, bend your lifted knee and bring it in toward your chest. Place your lifted ankle on your opposite thigh for Figure 4. Bend your standing leg to lower your hips.
Figure 4 to Warrior 2
From Figure 4, straighten your standing leg and bring your right knee back to your chest. Take your opposite hand to your lifted knee and reach your other arm back in a standing twist. Keep your chest facing the long side of the mat, bend your standing leg, and release your opposite knee so you can take a big step back into Warrior 2 facing the back of the mat.
Warrior 2 to Side Lunge
From Warrior 2, bend your back knee and lower your hips as you straighten your front leg and come onto your front front in Side Lunge on the opposite side as before.
Side Lunge to Downward-Facing Dog
From Side Lunge, bring your hands to the mat and pivot onto the ball of your back foot to face the front of the mat in a Low Lunge.Step back into Downward Dog. Do the flow on the other side.
You can experience the full 40-minute flow led by Brittany Bryden in her on-demand class.
About our contributor
Brittany Bryden is a yoga and movement teacher whose aim is to help others feel better in their minds and bodies. She has been a yoga teacher for seven years and a student for much longer. To her, yoga is the self-exploration of our authentic selves. She has found the true source of self-care, both physically and mentally, on her mat, and she considers it a gift to share this with her students. You can follow her on Instagram and practice along with her on YouTube.