Ecstatic Yoga Immersions

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Asana II 
EY Asana II, Sequencing & Pace Lesson

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Video

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EY Asana II Sequencing, Pace & Choreography

Creating yoga classes is an art, and takes time and practice to develop, however, even beginners can become very competent yoga instructors when mindful of choreographing sequences and a pace that fit the theme and intention you have set for your class. Eventually weaving flows with sequences of poses in a pace that flows with the intention will make you a great choreographer.

 

Sequencing

 

Choosing a set of poses to sequence together for a class will depend on the theme of your class, the intention of the class and the ability of your students. However, the general rule for sequencing yoga poses together is to create a natural flow aligned with your intention.

 

FLOW

Creating flowing sequences, stitching one pose to another in a natural flowing practice assists the student to go within and remain meditative and inwardly reflective during the practice. We share flows for you to offer your students and variations of poses to add to those flows that are integrative and create ease as you transition from one pose to the other. You are free to use all the information and flows available to creatively offer new flows to your students or use the Ecstatic Yoga flows as they are.

When creating a flowing sequence each pose sets up an easy transition to the following pose. It is best to include standing poses together into a flow, and floor poses together with a transition pose or two to smoothly go from standing to floor or floor to standing.

For example, a child’s pose to up dog flow is very natural. A childs pose can also flow into a single leg forward fold or balancing bear and then into boat with ease and grace. If you created a flow with camel then bridge it would take a bit more disruption because you would be up onto your knees and need to get onto your back to move into bridge. A solution to this is to add a pose in between like spinal rocks, allowing a more flowing transition. Or if you went from bridge to mountain that would create even less flow and more disruption because you would need to move from the floor on your back to standing. In this case you could either include your mountain earlier in your sequence with other standing poses or add in a few poses to aid transition. You could go from bridge to knees to chest, roll up to camel, to table, down dog, forward fold then finally to mountain.

 

Transitioning gracefully from a standing flow to a floor flow using forward folds and down dog.

Forward fold, Wide-legged forward fold, down dog and standing yoga mudra are favorite transitioning poses from standing to floor because they are all folds. When you are in a forward or wide-legged forward fold your students already have their hands on the floor and you can invite them to simple bend their knees and come to a seat. With standing yoga mudra you are folding forward and can invite students to bring their hands down to the floor and bend their knees to come to sitting position. Down dog is also a great transition pose that can provide a gentle transition from standing to floor by simply bending the knees to the floor and moving into seated pose, table or child’s pose.

 

Transitioning gracefully from a floor flow to a standing flow using table and down dog.

Table is a floor pose, and moves very easily into downdog which is used in many standing flows and can be used as a great transitioner from floor to standing. In table, you curl the toes under, lift the knees off the mat, straighten the legs and arms and you are in down dog. In down dog you can easily move into many standing positions.

 

Poses to Prepare the body

In planning your sequencing you can add preparatory poses to assist students to more easily move into a final pose. Below are some examples of preparatory poses for forward folds, backbends and twists.

 

Forward folds

Virasana (Hero’s pose) can prepare the knees for forward folds.

Modifications; Use blanket or cushion under sits bones or between calves and hamstrings.

Gomukhasana (Cow face pose) opens shoulders and creates mobility in the upper spine. Your forward fold can be restricted if you experience tightness in the upper back.

Modification; You can hold a strap between your hands If your hands don’t meet in Gomukhasana.

Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)  offers stretching of the hamstring to prepare for deeper stretching in forward fold.

Modification; If your hamstrings are tight you can use a strap around the foot of the raised leg.

A few beginner/intermediate forward folds.

Uttanasana/forward fold

Parsvottanasana/pyramid pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog Pose

Variation; Walking the dog, stretching one calve deeply at a time.

Seated forward folds

 

Backbends

Backbends require open hips, shoulders, a flexible spine and nice long front body. Below are some warm-ups to move gently into deeper back bending poses. Backbends are good preparation for shoulder stands.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog), this is a great opener for back bending as it is a gentle backbend, arche’s the back and extends the spine.

Modification; use blocks, place your hands on blocks rather than the earth.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), an intermediate backbend while laying on the belly.

Modification; use a strap around the ankles and take hold of the strap a few inches from the ankles.

Ustrasana or Camel; before moving deeply into camel move into a gentle camel where the hands are on the small of the back, chest is open, back is gently bending, spine extending, head in line with the spine (Don’t drop the head back) After a few breaths in this gently camel you may be ready to bring your hands down to your heels for a deeper backbend.

Modification; Come up onto your toes to bring your heels higher up, closer to your hands… bring the floor up.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) ; half bridge is a great preparation where you lift the hips up half way and hold. In this you are not arching your back, however your knees are up and feet hip width apart. Arms are resting alongside the body. After a couple half bridge poses you can move into a full bridge by pressing into the feet, lifting the hips and arching the back, while bringing the shoulder blades together, coming up onto the shoulders and clasping the hands together underneath your body. You can place a block between your knees, as the knees are holding the block this keeps the knees hip width apart.

Cobra; practice baby cobra before moving into a full cobra.

 

Twists

Twist are great counterposes for forward folds and backbends. They are great for digestion, detoxing and vitalizing the internal organs. Twists keep the spine healthy and flexible. Below are a few popular twists that can be used after forward folds and backbends when planning your sequences.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle)

Marichyasana III (Seated Spinal Twist)

Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)

 

Bharadvajasana II or Bharadvaja’s Twist I

 

Counterposing

Another important principle in a flowing sequence is to add counterposing into the flow. After  practicing a back bending posture include a forward fold, twist or knees to chest. It is very beneficial after extension (Backbend) of the spine to offer a twist or flexion (Forward fold) to neutralize and release any tension in the lower spine. After twisting to one side a great counterpose is a micro twist to the other side. If you bend the side body to the left, balance the body by bending the side body to the right.

Another invitation is to include a yin break with a childs pose or downdog after a series of yang poses, this adds some restorative aspects to even a yang flow and doesn’t push or burn students out. Yoga builds strength, however it is not about forcing and striving and always ultimately about connecting to the inner being, allowing, restoring and flow.

 

INTENTION

When choosing poses for a yoga class you will first want to set an intention for the class. For example, a hip opener class will hopefully include several hip opener poses, a yin class will flow slower and have more floor and restorative poses. A strength building class may have standing poses, balancing poses, maybe deeper squats in goddess. A children’s yoga class may include the animals, dog & cat inviting them to bark and meow along with the pose. With elderly students you will create different sequences or poses than with the youth. An evening class may begin with some effort-based poses, but wind down with some restorative poses. There are as many intentions as there are sequences to weave together.

 

Pacing

Depending on the theme and the intention, this will dictate a pace. Also, your student’s level of skill in yoga and the environment have an influence on the pace you choose for your yoga class. Take some time when creating a flow to think about the intention you are wanting to create, invigorating, relaxing, mindfulness, strength, etc.

If the intention and theme is based on an active or stimulating class, the pace will be faster and more upbeat. If you are wanting to promote stillness and relaxation you will offer a slower pace.

The overall important thing to consider in teaching a yoga class whether power yoga or restorative is a steady and consistent pace.

Sometimes we need to adjust according to the environment, for instance if it is a cold morning and the yoga room is cold, we may ditch the slow warm-ups and move right into a sun salutation or warrior flow. If it is a damp and rainy afternoon, we may want to ditch the active class and move into a more restorative class to match the mood of the rainy day. Never be so attached to your pace and planned sequence that you cannot shift and adjust when appropriate.

Also, depending on the students that arrive to your class, you may need to be flexible in your pace. It is important while teaching a yoga class to be aware of the students, be observant of the students, which will give you an idea of their skill level. You can tell a lot by looking into their eyes… do they look bored or stressed? Listen for clues from their breath… are they breathing heavily? If they seem to struggle to keep up with the pace, adjust and slow the pace down. If they seem bored, pick up the pace. It is important to be able to adjust and modify when needed.

When we plan for a class and choose a flow and a pace to use, of course we are intending to include all the asana poses within that flow. Therefore, it is wise to manage the time during your class so that you don’t waste time, you are mindful to move along as you had planned. However, don’t ever create stress in order to get all the poses you wanted into the time frame, it is better to be present and mindful with the yoga practice than to hurry through the poses in order to fit them all into the class. Mindful movement, responsiveness to students and guiding inner connection is more important than doing a lot of poses. Actually, practicing one pose with great attention, mindfulness, and conscious embodiment is far better than an hour of 20 poses rushed through with a lack of presence.

Another important aspect of pacing is to manage your class so you can begin and end your classes on time. Most people have busy lives and they expect you to begin and end the class as advertised so they can get to their next appointment or return home or to their work on time. Keeping within time is very important for the overall integrity of the class.

With pacing as we hold postures Ecstatic Yoga often invites you to hold for 3 deep, long and conscious breaths. This allows the student to integrate the pose, become present in the pose and it brings more benefit to hold the pose and the bandhas for a few breathes. There will of course be times when you may wish to lengthen or shorten the breath while holding poses.  Sometimes it is fun to do a vinyasa style flow to breath, therefore you will be guiding students more quickly in and out of the poses to add the benefit of pranayama to the flow.

Also, there will be times when you will create poses that you will invite students to stay longer in the pose, as well as asana flows and pranayama practices that include kumbhaka or breath retention.

When teaching a yin class your pace is often slower and inviting students into a resting pose like child’s pose to move into sensation and integration longer than a more yang class.

It is very important to give people permission to release a pose and the breath, especially breath retention at anytime if needed. This should be mentioned at the beginning of class, giving them full permission to release a pose or the breath and move into a resting pose like chids pose, down dog or savasana to restore at anytime if they are needing that. They can stay in a resting pose or rest a moment and come back to join the class when they are ready.

Invite students to also find their own pace and feel free to stay longer on a pose, do more repetitions or come out of a pose sooner and do less repetitions.

Always remind your students that yoga does not involve pain, and if pain occurs to back off from holding the pose and rest until pain has subsided.

Always invite students to be responsible for their own bodies and never over-extend themselves or force anything that feels painful or stressful in their bodies. Allow them to find their own pace and honor them if that pace goes off course from yours. It is important to be responsive to your students, however, don’t allow one student to direct the entire class. As long as the majority of the class are in synch with your flow, keep your flow going and trust that if someone needs to rest in savasana a bit or hold a pose longer, they will catch up. Don’t disrupt the entire class for one student, silently honor them in honoring their pace and needs. Unless of course you are working with only one person, in that case you are there for them and them alone, and you can be fully present to their needs.

 

Choreography

Below is a basic yoga class choreography outline. This outline is one example, you can use this basic structure and simply change up the poses depending on the intention and theme of your class. Or modify this structure as you wish. These are just suggestions, and you are free to use this basic model to play, adjust, modigy and create your own choreography.

 

Opening                              

  • Invite the student to be here now, enter into Presence.

  • Mindful belly breathing, durga pranayama (3 part yogic breath)

  • Set intention

  • Body scan, let go of the external and dive within   

Warm Ups

  • Neck rolls

  • Pelvic grinds

  • Seated twist

  • Seated cat/cow

  • Badakonosana

  • Range of motion

  • Seated twist

  • Breath & movement                        

Main Asana Practice

  • Asana flow; warrior flow, sun salutation flow, hip opener flow, floor flow, balancing flows.                  

Releases

  • Hoola

  • Hip pointers

  • Cat/Cow

  • Double knee drop

  • Single knee drop                             

Relaxation

  • Savasana, 2-3 minutes to guide students into relaxation. 5-10 minutes basking in deep relaxation/integration in silence                              

Closing        

  • Check inside/body scan   

  • Return to intention

  • Final blessing, prayer, group intention

Namaste                   

 

Below are some timing options for choreographing a yoga class, with time suggestions for 30 minute, 60 minute and 90 minute asana classes. These are suggestions and you can create

 

Timing Options

30 minute class                    Time in Minutes

Opening                                 2         

Warm Ups                             5

Main Asana Practice            15

Releases                                 2

Relaxation                             5

Closing                                   1

 

Timing Options                Time in Minutes

60 minute class

Opening                                 5

Warm Ups                             10

Main Asana Practice            35

Releases                                 4

Relaxation                             4

Closing                                   2

 

Timing Options                Time in Minutes

90 minute class

Opening                                 5

Warm Ups                             15

Main Asana Practice            45

Releases                                 12

Relaxation                             10

Closing                                   3

 

 

 

Intention in choreography for a yoga class

Creating a yoga class around an intention allows the students to not only gain from the asana poses and all the benefits they offer, but to also gain benefit from the class intention. There are as many intentions as there are classes to teach. Some intentions I love to create are; Presence, inner peace, silent stillness, self-love, going within, connecting to the Divine within, empowerment, listening, being the light, etc.

It is great to have the intention be positive and yoga self improvement related, for example an intention to be a marketing genius or handle gun control or win political debates would not be what we are suggesting. However, the list of self-actualizing and positive personal growth yoga related intentions are endless. You are free to repeat intentions, I do often. Sometimes I create minor changes in the title of the intention, but sometimes I use the same exact intention.

As you have noticed I use the intention of going withing and self love often, and have called it different things like;

-Diving within

-Basking in the inner nectar

-Connecting to pratyahara

-Resting in the being

-The greatest love

-Fierce self-love

-Self compassion

-Being the gentlest place to land

You are welcome to use any of the intentions we use and to have fun creating your own intentions.

 

Often you may wish to have physical intentions;

-Power flow

-Stretching flow

-Hip opener flow

-Balancing flow

-Building strength flow

-Focusing the mind flow

-Mind/body connection flow

 

You may want to create a class with an Emotional intention;

-Being joy flow

-Opening to love flow

-Standing in confidence flow

-Happiness flow

-Fulfilment flow

-Ecstatic flow

-Peace and tranquility flow

-Being the empowered warrior flow

 

You can create and offer flows with intentions for;

-Attention

-Energizing

-Focus & concentration

-Presence & slowing down

-Awakening to what is arising

-Relaxing

-Grief release

-Stress relief

-Sensuality

-Sexuality

-Expressing your voice

-Chanting flows

-Inner child flows

-Prayer flows

 The sky is truly the limit in offering and adding a special intention to a yoga asana or meditation class.

 

Other ways to use intention in a yoga class

-Lines of energy (Intention) for each pose

-Areas of  life

-Flexibility, balance, strength

-Activating inner aliveness

-Using a group intention set at the beginning of the class to be repeated and circling back to throughout the class

 

Special Target audience’s

Classes will use different choreography according to the audience. Most often in a traditional yoga class the audience will be general with a variety of people, levels, ages, skills. However, you may feel interested to teach a certain target audience. The audience will allow you the opportunity to be creative in creating classes that are directed to a narrow group. For example if you choose children to be your audience, your class will be very different than choosing a class for men in prison. Below are some possible audiences you may want to teach yoga classes to.

-Women

-Men

-Youth; toddlers, school age, teens

-Those struggling with Addiction

-Prison population

-Elderly

-Handicap

-People with similar injuries; Back, brain, wheelchair bound, etx.

-People recovering from injuries or physical conditions.

-People preparing for an event; marathons, hiking season, dance performances, etc.

 

Theme in choreographing a yoga class

There are many ways to create a yoga class and creating a themed class that may not be asana or may have just 10 minutes of asana, but another focus. Themed classes is a powerful way to add variety.

Some possible themed classes.

 

-Meditation

-Kriya Yoga & Philosophy Classes

-Ecstatic Dance

-Laughter Yoga

-Samadhi Journey

-Pranayama Practice

-Ecstatic Breathwork

-Ceremony

-Mindfulness classes

 

Choreography, sequencing and pace for these themed classes will be different from an asana yoga class.

Some possible examples for timing;

 

1 hour Meditation, ecstatic breathwork or Pranayam Class

Opening & Centering             5 minutes

Meditation Practice             50 minutes

Closing                                   5 minutes

 

1 hour Meditation, ecstatic breathwork or Pranayam Class

With some asana.

Opening & Centering             5 minutes

Asana practice                      10 minutes

Meditation Practice             40 minutes

Closing                                   5 minutes

 

 

1 hour Kriya/Philosophy class

Opening                                 5 minutes

Teaching                                20 minutes

Discussion                             20 minutes

Meditation                            10 minutes

Closing                                   5 minutes

 

1 hour Kriya/Philosophy class with asana practice

Opening                                 5 minutes

Asana                                     10 minutes

Teaching                                15 minutes

Discussion                             15 minutes

Meditation                            10 minutes

Closing                                   5 minutes

 

 

1 hour Ceremony

-Creating Sacred Space (Done prior to the ceremony and before participants arrive)

-Opening Blessing                5 minutes

-Releasing Ceremony            10 minutes

-Setting Intentions               10 minutes

-Invoking Intentions             5 minutes

-Taking Sacrament              5 minutes

-Celebration                          20 minutes

-Closing Circle & Sealing            5 minutes

 

 

1 hour Samadhi Journey

Opening & Centering             5 minutes

Samadhi Journey                 50 minutes

Closing                                   5 minutes

 

1 hour Samadhi Journey

Opening & Centering             5 minutes

Samadhi Journey                 50 minutes

Closing                                   5 minutes

 

Your personal style

This is the fun part, finding your voice and your style in creating yoga classes. You have within you a special gift no other yoga teacher can give… and that is YOU! You have a style of your own and as you continue to awaken and nourish that gift is when you will be most joyous and successful as a yoga teacher.

This is something that awakens within you naturally as you practice teaching… and remembering we are always a student of yoga whether we lead a class or attend a yoga class. As you practice your unique voice and are true to yourself, your style will arise and emerge naturally, ongoingly and beautifully.

Stay open to new and beautiful ways to awaken within you, following your heart. You may become drawn and interested in kriya and yogic philosophy, or even one area like the Upanishads or Patanjali. Or you may feel drawn to ceremony, restorative yoga or ecstatic dance. The field of yoga is vast and there is far more depth than we can cover in this 200 hour course, so keep your heart open and find what inspires and pulls your heart and bravely follow that path. Also, yoga may lead you to paths you hadn’t previously known, or styles and forms of yoga that are revealed to you over time.

Finding your style is a path of listening to and honoring your heart as it calls you to express the gifts and vibrations that dwell within you and expressing those joyously out into the world.

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Meditation 

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Meditation

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Meditation 

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Asana 

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Asana
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Asana 
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Samadhi
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8 Limbs
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Yin Asana1 
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