In this 4 week course we explore different groups of postures and the fundamental principles of alignment present in each group. We’ll cover foundational standing poses, forward bends, backbends, twists and lateral stretches.

WEEK 1   |   WEEK 2   |   WEEK 3   |   WEEK 4

Week 1

Underlying principles for working with the body, and standing poses

The component parts of each posture

  • Sthira sukham asanam – Posture should be steady and light
  • Foundation – building poses from the ground up
  • Breath
  • The subtle movements of energy in the body: prana, apana, samana vayu – balancing grounding and rebounding
  • Bandha – stability from the base of the body
  • Drishti – gaze point

Key alignment principles for standing poses – symmetrical and asymmetrical, square hip and open hip

  • Knees (or front knee for asymmetrical poses) facing forward, feet and toes orient around that naturally
  • Joints are open and muscles ‘hug’ the bones – no hyperextension or locking of joints
  • Pelvis neutral – public bone and tailbone equally dropping to the ground 
  • When arms reach up, upper arms externally rotate

Benefits of standing poses

  • Accessible, reasonably safe
  • Build strength, stamina and mobility
  • Invigorating and grounding
  • Improve circulation

Contraindications and precautions

  • Careful with alignment, particularly knees and sacro-iliac joint
  • For high / low blood pressure don’t hold too long, and move into and out of the pose with the breath

Props: yoga brick or thick book, rolled blanket

Week 2

Forward bends, expanding on standing poses, fundamental upper body strengtheners

Key alignment principles and actions for forward bends – supine, standing, seated

  • Pelvis tilts forward around the femur (thigh) bones – an anterior tilt
  • Knees soft, not locked – muscles hugging joints
  • Extend through the spine – each forward bend contains a little backbend in the upper back to create space for the diaphragm 
  • Reach forward with the breastbone, not down with the head – shoulders stay back
  • Keep the neck and head in line with the spine

Benefits of forward bends

  • Open the whole back of the body
  • Access the parasympathetic nervous system and can be experienced as grounding, calming, introspective
  • Activate apana vayu

Contraindications and precautions

  • Careful with spinal injuries, sciatica, hamstring issues and some hip and knee issues
  • Don’t hold too long for low mood and depression

Props: yoga brick or stack of books, rolled blanket, belt, wall / table top

Week 3

Backbends

Key alignment principles and actions for backbends – prone, standing, supine

  • Distribute the backbend evenly through the whole spine (and depending on the backbend even through the whole body)
  • Focus on opening the thoracic spine (upper back) particularly, keep lower back and neck long
  • Engage the core/abs to stabilise the lower back
  • Engage the legs and glutes (to an extend) to stabilise the pelvis and sacrum
  • Keep the neck and head in line with the spine
  • Gaze down – use drishti as counteraction to backbend in the neck

Benefits of backbends

  • Open the whole front of the body
  • Increase strength, flexibility and circulation for the muscles around the spine
  • Depending on the type of backbend can strengthen back, quads, hamstrings, upper body
  • Depending on the type of backbend can open back, quads, psoas, upper body, shoulders 
  • Can deepen the capacity of the lungs and help with respiratory conditions 
  • Access the sympathetic nervous system and can be experienced as stimulating, exhilarating, joyful
  • Activate prana vayu

Contraindications and precautions

  • Careful with spinal injuries, knee and neck issues
  • Don’t hold too long for anxiety

Props: yoga brick or thick book, rolled blanket, wall / sofa seat

Week 4

Twists

Key alignment principles and actions for twists – supine, standing, seated

  • Build the twist from a stable base in the lower body, engage legs, glutes, core to stabilise the lower back
  • Don’t twist in the lower back: twist (above the navel) and counter twist (below the navel) actions
  • Keep neck and head in line with the spine
  • Create space with the inhale, rotate with the exhale

Benefits of twists

  • strengthen and release the muscles of the back
  • stimulate circulation
  • can help to relieve deeply held tension
  • stimulate digestion
  • can help to relieve back pain 
  • can increase focus and clarity, mental and emotional balance
  • Activate samana vayu – a balancing energy in the centre of the body

Contraindications and precautions

  • Careful with spinal injuries, particularly in the upper back and neck – with recovery practice forward bends and backbends first before proceeding to twists 
  • For Sacroiliac issues it can be helpful to open hips slightly rather than square

Props: rolled blanket, yoga brick or other sturdy support