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I grew up around yoga. My mom helped open a couple of the early studios in Los Angeles in the ’90s and early 2000s. I played sports the entire time and genuinely thought yoga was just stretching. Then, after graduating college, I tried it. I was drawn to the physical challenge. I was a guy with stiff muscles and a lot of injuries, yet I found that I could do yoga.
As soon as I completed my initial yoga teacher training, I was doing trainings and workshops. Every year I’d do a 200- or a 300-hour training. I studied in India for a while. I explored different styles and teachers. Many of them were more movement-forward, such as my contemporary, Dice Iida-Klein, and I picked up different ways of thinking about sequencing. I learned to interweave different elements into my classes.
Then in 2018, I took Functional Range Conditioning training, which is about understanding how certain exercises for flexibility and mobility can benefit your everyday life. My teaching has evolved to include whatever I’m doing or studying at the time. I train in jiujitsu, I lift weights, I do resistance training, I run. It all works its way into my teaching. How I teach now is different than how I taught when I first began. My teaching style is always evolving.
At the moment, I teach a style of yoga that I think of as “modern vinyasa.” It pulls from a lot of different schools and modalities: dynamic movement, static postures, and breathing. Sometimes I make a small adjustment to the alignment of a traditional pose to decrease the chance of injury. Or I create dynamic movement within a pose. The concepts and movements I teach are geared toward helping anybody open up instead of needing to have a bendy body to do the pose. If you can’t do a lot of the poses in the class, it’s discouraging. That’s why I want to teach people how to move their bodies in a way that helps them in everyday life.
My style is very much for everybody. At CAMP, where I teach in Los Angeles, my regular students range in age from 20 to 60. A lot of my style is tricking the body to engage in different ways. After your practice, you should feel better than when you walked into my class.
I do yoga so that I can do the other things that I love. And I want to help others figure out how to engage their bodies so they can do the same.
What is functional movement?
“Functional” refers to a science-backed approach to movement that emphasizes moving your joints and engaging your stabilizing muscles in a manner that helps you move more easily through everyday life.
My approach to teaching melds functional movement with yoga. I strive to teach the body to move in anatomically safe and correct ways that build strength and enhance flexibility. I achieve this by altering the traditional alignment of a posture according to what contemporary science tells us is anatomically safe for most body types. I also incorporate dynamic movement into static poses. My cueing uses everyday language, and my sequencing is geared toward full-body conditioning. Two examples:
I teach a wider stance than the traditional “arch-to-arch” alignment. This creates less strain in your lower back and prevents overextension of the gluteal muscles.
I modify Warrior Pose III with a bent standing leg. This reduces the risk of hyperextension in your knee and minimizes strain in the glutes. I also ask you to shift your weight into your heel to bring more stability to the balancing pose. If you reach your arms forward, notice if it’s easier.
A sequence for building strength
Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Step your right foot forward and a little to the right into Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge). Keep your left leg straight and your left arm down as you bring your right arm up and rotate your chest to the right. Place a block under your left hand if needed. Get really strong with your left leg. If your left hip is tight, play around with lowering it a little. Turn your chest a little more and maybe re-lift your left hip. Veer away from any temptation to press down through the outer edge of the right foot.
Repeat on the other side, then come to Tabletop.
This is such an underutilized pose. It’s a feel-good stretch in your upper back and shoulders.
From Tabletop, stick your backside up in the air, then walk your hands forward and allow your chest to sink almost to the floor. Bring your forehead to the mat.
If you are looking for more stretch, come onto your fingertips or stick your chin forward and look toward the front of the mat. Keep your thigh bones vertical; do not shift your hips forward or back. Press firmly through your palms to engage through your upper back and shoulders.
Come into Forearm Plank with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Turn your left forearm in as much as you need to feel stable. Drop both feet to the left so that your right foot is in front of the left; this staggered foot position keeps your pelvis stacked. Bring your right hand to the back of your head. Emphasize the lift of your hips. Option to lift your left foot off the mat.
Hold for a few breaths, then rotate back down to Forearm Plank and repeat on the other side.
Front Body Drill to Arch-Ups
This is a great Handstand drill.
From Forearm Plank, lie down on your stomach. Bring your forehead to the mat with your arms outstretched alongside your ears. If you have tight shoulders, take your arms wider than your shoulders. Press the tops of your feet into the mat so your knees and quads come off the floor. Keep your hip points and forehead down and your belly lifted. Press your hands firmly into the floor to wake up your back shoulders. Stay here for 2 breaths. Keep your forehead down and lift your hands off the floor.
Hold here for 5 to 10 breaths. Then lift your chest, arms, and legs all the way up. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Active Prasarita C
Stand, then come into Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Bring your feet at least as wide as the mat and walk your hands back to your feet. Bring a slight bend to your knees. Reach your arms back alongside your body as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with your hands. Then lift your arms toward the front of the mat as if you’re holding a pole in your hands to wake up your shoulders and upper back before the Sun Salutations that follow.
From Active Prasarita C, stand up and step to the front of the mat. Move through a traditional Sun Salutation A three times.
Reach High → Forward Bend → Half Lift → Chaturanga → Up Dog → Down Dog
From standing, cross your right ankle over your left knee. Reach your arms forward, sit your hips back, and flex your right heel. Bring tension to your fingers or make fists. Sit your hips back and down as far as possible. To wake up your outer hip, actively pull your outer right knee toward the mat to externally rotate it, like in Pigeon Pose.
Bent-Leg Warrior III
From standing, place your hands on your hips. Bend your left knee and hug it into your chest. Slightly bend your right leg and shift your weight into your right heel. Lean forward and reach your left leg back. Steer your pelvis toward the floor. Option to reach your arms forward.
Come back to standing. Repeat on the other side. You can take a vinyasa or not before the next pose.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II), Variation
Come into Warrior Pose II with your left foot forward. Nudge your left foot a few inches more to the left, so your stance is wider than the usual heel-to-heel alignment. Bend your right knee and bring your right hip point an inch or two to the right to let your left hip tuck in toward the center of the mat. Then straighten your right leg and lift through your waist. Soften your shoulders.
Repeat on the other side. Option to take a vinyasa before you come into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, step your right foot forward and to the outside of your right hand. Drop your left knee down. Reach your right arm up and turn your chest to the right, then exhale and bring your right elbow down inside your right foot. This is a dynamic movement to work your spine.
Do 5 repetitions on each side. Option to take a vinyasa. Return to Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, step your left leg through to Pigeon Pose, with both knees bent at 90 degrees, and your shins parallel to the edge of the mat and at 90 degrees to each other. Bring your arms in front of you and come high on your fingertips. Inhale to lift your chest and start to fold over as you exhale.
Do 3 to 5 rounds, lowering farther with each exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
Lie on your back with bent knees. Lift your hips and place a block on its lowest height underneath your sacrum. Your arms can rest out to the sides or on your chest. Inhale to expand your chest. Exhale and draw your belly inward. Make an effort to allow the exhalation to be twice as long as the inhalation—so if you inhale to a count of 3, you would exhale to a count of 6—to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system as you finish your sequence.
See also: 38 Ways That Yoga Can Improve Your Life
Calvin Corzine is a Los Angeles–based yoga teacher whose style of yoga is a distinct blend of vinyasa, ashtanga, and Iyengar, with attention to functional movement. Corzine’s classes are known for their challenging and creative sequencing. He is a partner of CAMP.