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Sun Salutations for Beginning Students

madeline_sweet2010-07-04 22:49:43 +0000 #1
Hello! I am a new Yoga Teacher - still in training. There is one yoga class that I have begun to teach - and one thing that I find is I have a few students {they are around mid-40's age, female, who have never done yoga before} that discuss around the Sun Salutations and comment on difficulty within the transition from downward facing Dog to the Lunge position. It is such a long step!

How do you instruct your students between Down Dog to Lunge? Is there a way I can simplify this for them {using better language and instruction}? My students are a bit overweight, but wonderful students with a desire for their own health. I hope I can help them enjoy yoga and make this transition a bit easier for them!

Any ideas on language I can use or techniques to make this easier?

Thank you!
earthsoul82010-07-04 23:00:05 +0000 #2
Namaste Madeline_sweet

I have a mixed group of students as well... I've worked with a couple of different vinyasa sequences... and then work towards that step... approach can be interesting. Like in life. Do they have trouble stepping back, say from forward bend to lunge or only from down dog. Here is a suggestion. I find that if I practice things myself first, kind of trying to imagine my body is that of another, how would I feel attempting something in an alternate way. Ok... Start in Child's Pose. Inhale as you move to Table and the Exhale as you move to Down Dog, Inhale back to Table, Exhale as you move back to Child's Pose and repeat linking breath and movement, etc. This will give some HIP awareness and warm up arms and also give awareness to the core, position of hands, wrists, forearms, fingers as well as shins, ankles and feet. Then pause in Table... Work toward lifting one leg and then the other shifting awareness from left and right sides as you switch. Which muscles start to take over to help keep balance. Try to keep weight equally distributed using shoulders and arms as legs rise. Where does the energy shift to. Notice the small and subtle things.

These things are big! Hopefully you are following me here. Then if you know what sunbird is... bringing leg long but then like in Cat/Dog or Cow depending upon what you call it round your back and bring the knee to nose a few times. Notice the rock or tip of the pelvis and the range of motion as the spine rounds. Once the knee comes toward the nose can you sufficiently tuck the tailbone under, feel this shift, and lightly step the foot between the hands or close to it. Practice on both sides... Step forward and then back again. How is the balance. Which muscles, connective tissue and bones help to do the work... Which body parts unnecessarily take over when perhaps are not needed to do so? What emotions arise when looking to Take That STEP... There is always a bigger picture. Break it into minute parts as you explore... In essence my suggestion is to first practice the step from table so one, or you if you practice this first, would still be on one knee as opposed to a lunge... for example sometimes we will show a modification from lunge into crescent with knee down... so you/we can begin to have some fun approaching things from perhaps a non-traditional yoga style but in essence the creation of a yoga practice that is right effort, sustained and comfortable is important as well. If this sounds too complicated feel free to ask anyone here more questions. Maybe an easier way would be to try moving into table rather then down dog for a few cycles of the sun salutation and let the modification feel good and ease the frustration for the practitioners.
Alix2010-07-04 23:35:52 +0000 #3
Madeleine, speaking as a lady who has had difficulty with exactly that move in past let me just say that practice and losing some of the belly is the only thing that makes this move easier. Just tell them to be patient and to do their best, it will come. There are likely going to be other moves where the belly gets in the way a bit, after time, this will be less of an issue. I'm sitting here chuckling a bit because I STILL find my belly gets in my way from time to time. And lets not even discuss what happens in shoulder stand and plow!!
Pandara2010-07-04 23:00:48 +0000 #4
Alix,

I agree, but your post gave me a bit of a giggle as well. I have in my class a few African ladies and we tried the plough for the first time this week. One of the ladies is well, very well endowed in the breast region and the rest you can imagine yourself, fortunately everybody in the class had a good laugh and she took it most graciously as a compliment.
InnerAthlete2010-07-04 23:43:16 +0000 #5
Hello Madeline.

You ask two questions in one. The first is about the transition from Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) to lunge (vanarasana). The second part is how to communicate effectively as a teacher.

Anatomically it is an action in the core muscles in conjunction with the hip flexors - the iliopsoas and rectus femoris: www.exrx.net/Muscles/Quadriceps.html - which facilitate the legs moving from AMS to Vanarasana. Therefore, asana work or prep work in these areas would, over time, "help" in the transition you speak of. You can get such help either by targeting particular asanas or by using an emphasis. So you may choose to do asana a, b, and c or you may simply choose to get your students to contract the quadriceps in many different poses.

Additionally, students with the challenges you mention may find the transition easier (in the meantime) by using two bricks. This provides more height or clearance for the lunging action. You can have them move to plank pose and then place their hands on the bricks before stepping through. Please try this on your own so you will be familiar with the execution and experience of it before trying to instruct it.

While there are a variety of ways to be a better teacher through the refinement of language, but that is for another time

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