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Introduction

Welcome to eClass 1 of the ‘Teaching yoga to dance students (secondary)’ series – The Flow class. Each of the eClasses will give you practical tips and useful approaches to yoga for you to offer to your dance students for their physical and mental development. In this first eClass, yoga teacher Jolie Brook explores the details of postures that occur in her Flow class.

By the end of this eClass you will understand:

  • safe and effective alignment of the body in key yoga postures
  • an inclusive approach to yoga to accommodate students of various abilities, strengths and limitations.

Disclaimer

This eClass provides information about yoga for teachers. It is for educational/reference use only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of physicians or health care professionals. Users should consult their health care professional before taking on any new exercise program, in regard to specific advice or necessary precautions.

The Arts Unit and the yoga teacher, Jolie Brook, assume no responsibility for injuries suffered while practising these techniques.

Before undertaking any type of exercise, including yoga, it is important to listen intelligently to the needs of your body.

If anything causes you discomfort, or aggravates a pre-existing injury, don’t do it.

Biographies

Select the name of the person to view their biography.

Jolie Brook | Teacher

Jolie has performed and toured both nationally and internationally with dance-in-education, opera companies, contemporary dance and image-based theatre.

Jolie completed her formal teacher training at Nature Care College (Advanced Diploma) and, with over 27 years committed to her personal yoga practice, she has been continually inspired and fuelled by many retreats and intensives with senior yogi alumni – Simon Borg-Olivier (Yoga Synergy), Lance Schuler (Inspya Yoga), Rose Baudin, Clive Sheridan and former Anusara yogis Tara Judelle, Christina Sell, Noah Maze, Darren Rhodes and Sianna Sherman.

Jolie has worked as a yoga teacher in the dance field for the past 10 years to facilitate a balance through the discipline of yoga.  Her classroom approach encourages acceptance of the whole being, bringing the mind and body together as one to understand our limitations whilst expanding our limiting beliefs. Jolie has been on the faculty of the Sydney Dance Company Pre-Professional Year since its inauguration, working alongside its director, Linda Gamblin, to forge a strong connection between dance training and yoga practice. She has also worked with Evolve Dance and Sinead Vidler at Academy Ballet School (pre-professional and junior ballet school). Her ongoing work in the corporate field for over 10 years includes teaching the judges of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Yoga is indeed for all and Jolie enjoys the privilege of being one of the voices to share it and inspire others.

Emma Grill

Emma is a Sydney-born contemporary dancer with over 15 years of training in ballet, jazz and contemporary. Her dance training began at The Dance Spot in Randwick, under Mark Reily and Peta Frith, where she studied for 13 years and completed the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) ballet syllabus. Emma studied Higher School Certificate (HSC) dance at Bradfield Senior College under Janet Ashiabor, where she performed in the Dance Callback for 2014. In 2015, she completed a year of full-time dance training at Ev and Bow Dance Training Centre, working with choreographers such as Sarah Boulter, Adam Blanch, Stephen Tannos and Neale Wittaker in contemporary, ballet, hip hop and yoga.

In 2016, she undertook a second year of full-time training with the Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year under Linda Gamblin. She trained closely with many esteemed Australian choreographers such as Narelle Benjamin, Kristina Chan and Natalie Ayton, as well as in Pilates and yoga with Jolie Brook. Emma is continuing her studies at the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel and aims to continue working both in Australia and abroad.

Jasmin Luna Lancaster

Jasmin is a Sydney-based contemporary dancer/choreographer as well as a visual artist. She has trained at Ev and Bow Full Time Dance Training Centre and at Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year (2015 and 2016), gaining a Certificate IV in Dance. At the Sydney Dance Company Jasmin had the opportunity to be closely mentored by Narelle Benjamin, Dean Walsh, Gabrielle Nankivell and Matt Cornell. Other professional training has included: Australian Dance Theatre’s Secondment Week (2015); company classes at Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc, and Sydney Dance Company (2016), and working closely with Thomas Bradley in his residency (2017).

Although Jasmin has had exposure to technical contemporary and ballet, she has also trained in urban, hip hop and improvisation. Her more recent exploration into Vinyasa yoga and abstract painting has affected her process of creating movement, which has led her to experimentation, exploration and the blending of dance genres.

Strickland Young

Strickland began his dance training under the tutelage of Corinne Bowey and Diana Shand in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.  In 2011, Strickland was selected as a Junior Associate at the New Zealand School of Dance as a contemporary major, where he was introduced to a whole world of ideas, movement and technique that nurtured his passion for contemporary dance. In 2015 Strickland started his full-time training at Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year program where he was exposed to an immensely life-changing journey that would shape him as an individual and provide him with so many tools and ideas that would further improve not only his movement but also his approach to life.

Strickland made his professional debut in March 2017 when he performed with Strut Dance for their staging of William Forsythe’s piece ‘One Flat Thing Reproduced’, performing in the courtyard of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia in Perth. Strickland went on to perform with The Dream Dance Company in their season of ‘Enter the Vortex’, choreographed by Sarah Boulter and directed by Marko Panzic, touring the show to New Zealand. Strickland is excited to see where the rest of his professional journey will take him.

About yoga

Select a topic for more information.

Yoga styles

Most yoga classes can come under the heading of Hatha yoga. This can be translated as ‘Ha’ = sun (masculine, active) and ‘tha’ = moon (feminine,receptive), uniting the opposites within us all, bringing balance. In our physical bodies we develop a balance between strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance effort and surrender in each pose.

Many styles of yoga fall under this heading – Ashtanga, Iyengar, Synergy, Vinyasa, Power, Yin and soon. They all incorporate three things: asana (the physical practice), pranayama (breath control) and some form of meditation.

Yoga has been adapted by teachers to incorporate bits and pieces of various styles. In this ever-expanding array of yoga classes, you can pick from a dizzying array of techniques. They are creating yoga that works for them and adapting the practice to make it accessible to all.

This famous anecdote ‘What did the Buddha say when the musician asked him how to tune his stringed instrument? Not too tight and not too loose’ shows us the importance of staying on the ‘middle path’. This guideline also holds true when it comes to yoga practice. There’s a common misconception that yoga is just about becoming flexible. But if all we did was get looser and looser we run the risk of becoming out of tune, just like the musician’s instrument. Strength and discipline are needed to help us hit the right notes.

Yoga practice shows us that true flexibility is as much about an adaptable mind as it is an open body. This very definition suggests that our practice is based on the notion of connection. This connection leads to balance. We can set up certain positions in our body, use props to support ourselves, and order our movements in logical sequences that will prepare the body for opening. But a flexible mind is what allows us to adapt, modify and explore our individual situation intelligently.

When practicing more difficult poses, it’s wise to be strategic – emphasise preparation and technique and break down the posture into small, accessible components. One benefit of this process is that it provides you with aspects of every pose that you can work on even if you can’t do the pose in its entirety.

Approach to yoga

As a teacher of yoga, Jolie invites her students to be curious about all aspects of the practice: physical, mental and spiritual.  In this way, even beginner students can learn more about their strengths, limitations and attitudes. Fostering an inclusive atmosphere in class, whilst acknowledging individuality, is key. Approaches like this can be taken off the mat to encourage an acceptance of diversity in the world.

Yoga teaches you to tune out from the self-critic, which gives you a refreshed sense of clarity to look at yourself honestly.  Getting to know and accept our strengths and weaknesses gives us a sort of inner power and equips us with a code for living.

Yoga is not a competition – it’s about learning how to honour the needs of your body which may change from day to day. It is important to connect to our body’s innate wisdom and listen to it.

Process

Yoga offers dancers the opportunity to connect with what is appropriate in each moment – releasing the expectations of ‘performance’ and instead be in a process driven discipline. It’s liberating to engage and give dancers the opportunity of being in their bodies physically – aware of their physical form,breath and mental chatter.

To realise they are not the thoughts of their mind, they are the ones who are listening.

When you link breath to movement, movement becomes easier.It allows you to harness energy and to do more with less effort.

Benefits of yoga

Yoga can help dancers maintain their flexibility and balance, keeping their body open and muscles engaged.

The benefits include:

  • elongating, aligning the body with strength,stability and symmetry
  • physically conditioning the body to continue to gain strength, stamina and efficiency whilst keeping at bay imbalances and injury
  • increasing confidence and clarity of mind,reducing stress to re calibrate brainwaves to a more relaxed state.

Yoga has a lot to offer – for everybody and any body.

Preparing for yoga

To begin, all we need is a body, mind and a bit of curiosity!

Barefoot is best.

Comfortable clothing.

A yoga mat. You may start without one of course, but if aiming to do a regular practice then a mat will provide traction to move in postures in a supported manner. A mat also provides support when laying on the floor.

In yoga, we twist from side to side, bend forwards, bend backwards and turn upside down. If you have just eaten, these movements won’t be so comfortable to make. A light snack 30 minutes prior to class is fine.

Yoga focus

Focusing throughout the practice allows you to check in with yourself physically and mentally – to follow how you feel in each moment so that it truly serves your body and your needs on any particular day.

As long as the form is maintained/modified then over time depth will be achieved.

Yoga is not a competition.

No grades are given.

No one wins or loses.

We practice progress, not perfection.

It’s an outlet to exist as you are.

Postures

You may approach the postures in any order. You may revisit any posture at any time.

Note: You will need to complete ‘Hands and wrists / Downward dog’ before beginning ‘Plank’. ‘Hands and wrists / Downward dog’ will give you important information about weight bearing through arms, which is necessary for anyone moving into the plank pose.

Select a posture for more information.

Hands and wrists / Downward dog

Weight bearing through the hands occurs throughout the yoga practice. The placement of the student’s hands is important to build strength in the wrists to provide support for poses where the hands are grounded.

In this section we will go through stretches, alignment and light exercises for the hands and wrists. We will then explore the downward dog pose and the optimal alignment and actions of the body, as well as variations that a student may do to achieve and maintain this fundamental yoga posture.

Warrior 1 and 2

The warrior poses strengthen and stretch the legs and groin muscles and encourage the back and upper torso to broaden and open through the arms while toning the abdominal muscles.

Warrior 2 is generally practised first as it is less challenging for the student.

In this section we explore the alignment of the feet, legs and hips first, with the arms on the ground, to provide a strong and safe foundation for each of the poses. Then we bring the arms up, finding length in the torso, breadth across the back and collarbones, and softness in the shoulders.

Cobra

The cobra pose is used as an alternative, more achievable pose to the upward dog in the Flow class. It works on strengthening the muscles of the spine and developing openness in the upper back and shoulders, whilst keeping the back protected.

In this section we discuss the alignment of the legs and its influence on the gluteal muscles. Techniques are also introduced for the teacher in assisting the student to find greater openness and range of movement in a safe manner.

Trikonasana

Trikonasana is another pose that works on strengthening the legs, opening the hips and finding length and openness in the torso and upper body.

Where students may have tightness in their hamstrings, we discuss actions that will still allow them to achieve this pose. We also discuss actions you can take to ensure the students find both length and work in the body.

Plank

The plank position, as well as the yoga position of chaturanga, with the elbows bent and the body closer to the floor, require strength in the arms, shoulders and upper body.

There are modifications to the pose to allow the student to build strength without collapsing into the pose. It is important that the student maintains correct alignment in the arms, shoulders and body, and we discuss modifications and actions you can take to encourage your student to find a full and safe expression of the pose.

The Flow class

In the process of this Flow class you’ll hear Jolie instruct the dancers to breathe in and out. If you find students holding their breath to achieve the said length, encourage them to relax and allow themselves to breathe as their body naturally needs to. The breath should never be strained and our own need to breathe is the best guide we have.

Tips for ‘The Flow class’

Moving between poses

The Vinyasa (Flow) yoga class gets you moving from pose to pose with your breath.  Often the poses are linked together with sun salutations that build strength in the upper body. Their many names project strength: mountain pose; warrior poses; tree pose, and so forth. It also provides a mild cardiovascular conditioning. You are encouraged to focus on breath and bodily sensations. Worries fall to the back of your mind and you’re truly brought into the moment, focusing on finding relaxation and endurance within a moving sequence, creating a moving meditation.

Holding poses

Staying in yoga poses teaches us to deal with resistance and overcome it.

The yoga happens when you want to leave the pose.

This sentiment excludes the instances when the pose puts us in actual physical pain. If that’s the case, we should modify the pose to gain the benefits without causing damage.

The physical benefits of holding the pose extend far beyond stretching the muscles. It affects both muscles and the connective tissue,which in turn send signals to the autonomic nervous system.

Repeating poses

By repeating the pose or entering into and out of it dynamically, it prepares the body and mind for the intensity of holding a pose.

‘Active movements activate the shortened muscles, which causes the lengthened muscles to become reciprocally relaxed. This gives flexibility without feeling strong stretching, builds strength without stress, increases blood flow without the heart rate racing, and allows you to do complex postures without having to over think’ (Simon Borg-Olivier).

Poses from the Flow class

Adho mukha svanasana | Downward-facing dog pose

This pose will give you energy. It stretches the back from the tailbone to the top of the neck; strengthens wrists, hands, arms and shoulders; lengthens the hamstrings, calves and Achilles. It brings fresh blood to the head and helps reduces stiffness in the neck.

Ananda balasana | Happy baby pose

Laying on your back, bend your knees into your belly. Grip the outside of your feet with your hands (or slide the hands down the outer shins if you can't quite reach the feet). Then widen the legs so they open just slightly wider than your torso and draw the knees up towards your armpits. Position the ankle directly over the knee so that your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Create resistance by pulling down with your hands as you push up with your feet (flexing through the heels).

Anjaneyasana | Low kneeling lunge pose

This pose releases tension and gives the hips and hip flexors a good stretch. It also stretches your hamstrings, quads and groins, and strengthens the knees, quads and glutes.

Ardha uttanasana | Halfway lift pose

Bring your body into a halfway lift. Draw the lower and mid back in, trying to keep the lower belly slightly lifted. Bend the knees to make this action more accessible. Lift the chin slightly.

Bhujangasana | Cobra pose

Cobra keeps the spine supple and healthy, toning the nerves, improving communication between the brain and the body.

Chaturanga dandasana | Low plank pose

Upon lowering to the floor, the elbows stay close to the body and we aim to never let the shoulders dip lower than the elbows.

Supta baddha konasana | Supine cobbler pose

This posture stretches the inner thighs, groins and knees. It helps to relieve symptoms of menstruation, stress and stimulates some of the abdominal organs.

Tadasana | Mountain pose

It brings attention to posture and makes you aware of how the legs and feet have to work in order to stand up straight.

Uttanasana | Forward fold pose

In this pose the spine is given an intense stretch. The abdominal organs are toned because the head is hanging down. The increased blood flow soothes the brain and relieves fatigue.

Utthita balasana | Extended child’s pose

This pose provides a gentle stretch for the back of the body and the shoulders by relieving pressure on the spine, while gently stretching the whole of the upper body, right through to the fingertips.

Utthita trikonasana | Triangle pose

This pose strengthens the legs, makes the hips more flexible and tones the abdomen.

Virabhadrasana 1 | Warrior 1 pose

This is a challenging pose in which the chest is well expanded, which in turn improves breathing. It also helps with stiffness in the shoulders, back and neck. It strengthens the psoas and legs.

Virabhadrasana 2 | Warrior 2 pose

This pose strengthens the legs and lengthens the inner thigh and groin. It brings flexibility to the spinal muscles and tones the abdominals. Although this is called the second of the warrior postures, it’s usually practised first as it’s less challenging.

Kumbhakasana | Plank pose

Arms placed shoulder distance apart, fingers spread wide.  Really actively pushing the floor away from you (which keeps the shoulder blades on the back rather than splaying).  The sit bones are drawing ever so slightly under so that the lower back is lengthened and the core is engaged.

Vrksasana | Tree pose

This pose requires the yogi to stand rooted.

Urdhva hastasana | Raised hands pose

Same alignment cues as in tadasana. Lengthen your body from the toes all the way up to the fingertips as if you were one long continuum of energy.

Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation

This series of postures that make up a sun salute can lengthen, strengthen, flex and extend many of the main muscles of the body whilst distributing prana (energy) flow throughout the whole system.

  1. Tadasana | Mountain pose
  2. Urdhva hastasana | Raised hands pose
  3. Uttanasana | Forward fold pose
  4. Ardha uttanasana | Halfway lift pose
  5. Kumbhakasana | Plank pose
  6. Chaturanga dandasana | Low plank pose
  7. Bhujangasana | Cobra pose
  8. Adho mukha svanasana | Downward dog pose
  9. Uttanasana | Forward fold pose
  10. Ardha uttanasana | Halfway lift pose
  11. Uttanasana | Forward fold pose
  12. Urdhva hastasana | Raised hands pose
  13. Anjali mudra | Prayer position

Glossary

Term Contextual language Student language
Asana ‘Ah-sah-nah’ means ‘seat’. Moving into a ‘pose’.
Aum ‘OOOOHhhhhhhmmmm’ – essentially, we are part of this universe, moving, changing, breathing. When you chant, you are tapping into that vibration. Sound of the universe.
Bhramari A simple pranayama (breathing technique) that is instantly calming. Hum like a bee.
Drishti View/sight Focus
Hatha yoga ‘Ha-tha’ – sun (ha), moon (tha) – refers to the balance of masculine aspects (active, hot, sun) and feminine aspects (receptive, cool, moon) within us all. Hatha is a title given to many forms of yoga that incorporate asana (postures), pranayama (breath work) and meditation. Hatha yoga is a path towards creating balance and uniting opposites.
Namaste Nah-mah-stay – translates to the divine light within me recognises the divine light within you. When we are in this place together we are one. An incredibly simplified translation I read once – I’m awesome, you’re awesome.
Prana Refers traditionally to the exhaled breath (pra – ‘outward’, ‘forth’) which lives in the lungs. Energy
Supine Poses that are done reclined, lying flat on our backs with our face up. There are various poses that can be practiced in supine position that are then mirrored in a seated or standing version. Lay on your backs.
Vinyasa Movement between poses in yoga, typically accompanied byregulated breathing. A gradual progression or a step by step approach that systematically and appropriately takes a student from one point and safely lands them in the next point. Used in many classes to describe the connection of one pose to the next. Flowing practice
Yoga In Sanskrit, it translates to yug – yoking, union. The union of the body, breath and spirit as one. Rather than thinking of the past, dreaming of the future, it’s connecting to the now.

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