Part of the excitement of a vinyasa yoga class is the constant movement. Flowing is fun! This steady, invigorating rhythm mimics the pace of our lives—which explains why so many people in the DC Metro/Alexandria area are gravitating toward it. They find it familiar yet releasing, which is a great way to let go of tension and stress.
For beginner yogis or those who are tight in the shoulders or hips, one of the most common obstacles to staying with the vinyasa is the step forward from downward facing dog during sun salutations. The factors vary from yogi to yogi, but some include the length of the arms, amount of core strength, and remembering to exhale as you step forward. For the most part, with practice and consistency, this motion becomes second nature to the body.
In a slower moving class at your local yoga studio, or when mindfully slowing the pace of your vinyasa, you have the opportunity to take your time and notice how the body feels as you step forward. You might be a beat or two behind the teacher, but you can stay true to your breath and sync back up in down dog. Other times, when the teacher is guiding you through a rapid-fire Sun A, you might feel like you simply can’t keep up the pace without compromising the poses.
When you find yourself in this situation, first remember that no other yogi is paying attention. They’re in their practice. Also, it might be time to incorporate two blocks into your step-through for extra leverage.
You can even use them for the entire Sun Salutation. Most local yoga studios have yoga blocks and other props like straps and bolsters (they are NOT just for beginner yoga classes! Props are your friends).
In the case of using blocks for the Sun A step-through, we basically get to trick our bodies into having longer arms!
One way to do this is by placing a block on each side of your mat. Decide which height you want to use in advance. Usually, the highest level is less stable, but it depends on how it feels for you. If you prefer to use them as you step forward, reach for the blocks after you exhale into downward facing dog. Take one hand to either block, ground down as you step your foot forward, and Voila! You’re there.
A second way to use the blocks is to hold them in your hands throughout the entire Sun Salutation, especially if you have tight hamstrings and/or wrists!
Here are some step-by-step instructions for this type of flow:
- Exhale into a fold forward.
- Inhale with the hands pressing into the blocks while lengthening your spine into a halfway lift.
- Exhale into a forward fold.
- Step back to a high plank, keeping your hands on the blocks (You may feel awkward being so high up, but just go with it!).
- Exhale and lower through chaturanga dandasana (this may be a bit tricky, so you will need to practice a few times).
- Inhale and lift into upward facing dog (this will feel so easy! The extra lift will allow you more arch in the upper back, which can often be difficult from the floor).
- Exhale, roll over the toes, and lift the hips into downward facing dog.
Observe how the upper back feels in this position. You may even find a mild backbend there. Be careful not to collapse too much into the shoulders.
From here you are already in position to step through with ease!
Watch the video to help you see what we mean!