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Introduction

Welcome to eClass 2 of the ‘Teaching yoga to dance students (secondary)’ series – Short, focused practices. In this eClass, yoga teacher Jolie Brook presents sequences to open the quadriceps, psoas, shoulders and calves, and explores the use of the wall to structure the class.

By the end of this eClass you will understand:

  • safe and effective alignment of the body in stretches for better engagement of muscles and deeper execution of yoga postures
  • usage of props and the wall to increase awareness of the correct ‘action’ and feeling of yoga poses
  • 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.

Practices

You may approach the practices in any order. You may revisit any practice at any time.

Select a practice for more information.

Quadriceps and psoas opening

This is a sequence to balance poses that strengthen and stretch the quadriceps and psoas muscles. We use props in this sequence: a wall, yoga blocks, and an extra rolled up yoga mat for knee support.

The quadriceps are the group of four muscles that make up the front part of your thigh. These muscles tend to be tight in athletes and dancers.

The psoas is a bilateral deep core muscle that connects each leg to the torso. This muscle can become tight when we spend a lot of time sitting.

Calf opening

This is a sequence to stretch the calf muscles through passive means such as myofascial release and deep tissue work. We use a rolled up yoga mat and the pressure of our own limbs to encourage a letting go and release of these muscles.

The calf muscles are a powerful part of our body as they walk us through life. They consist of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles which insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. Our calves are some of the strongest muscles of our body and because of their everyday activity, can become quite short and tight, limiting the range of motion of the ankle. Calf muscles that are tight can also affect your hamstrings and restrict the range of motion in your legs. This in turn can affect your hip flexors and cause undue stress on the lower back. Addressing tight calf muscles is very important for the smooth functioning of the joints both above and below them.

Shoulder opening

This is a short sequence to encourage the shoulders to open and soften, whilst the chest expands and stretches. We use props for this session to enhance the openings: the wall and yoga blocks.

Poor posture from sitting at a desk all day can make the chest tighten, pulling the shoulders forward. This concaved position affects the capacity of the lungs, shortening the breath (shortened breath can be a trigger for anxiety). The upper back in turn becomes weak and the neck can be tense.

Our shoulders have a lot of moving parts. Each shoulder has four joints plus layers of soft tissue that includes muscles, tendons and ligaments. When you consider the physical demands that the shoulders undergo daily with the complexity of that region of the body, you wind up with an area that benefits tremendously when targeted for opening.

Wall practice

This is a sequence focusing on some of the fundamentals of a yoga practice whilst using the wall to assist with balance and to provide support during poses.

The wall offers a myriad of benefits to all students. It helps you understand the correct ‘action’ of an asana. Rather than simply forming the shape of the pose with the body, the practitioner is made more aware of how it should really feel. This helps to create stability and tranquillity in the pose.

Tips

Select a tip for useful information for your practice.

Maintain correct focus on the target area

If a student’s muscles are tight, their needs will be met sitting upright whilst being supported by a block. If you were to lie a person on their back who has tight quadriceps, they would have an enormous arch in their back and the focus would be taken away from the target area.

Curvature of the spine

Whilst curvature in the spine is natural, this might be exaggerated through an excessive tilting backwards of the pelvis. Instructing the student to slightly draw under the sitting bone of the leg that’s up the wall may help, as would an instruction of feeling like the student is pushing the front foot forward. In some instances where students are tight in the leg and muscles across the front of the hips, their backs will be nowhere near the wall and nor do they need to be for the position to be effective.

Fascia

Our fascial system surrounds, connects and supports all of the structures of our body.  It can become affected by postural habits, stress and be bound and blocked.  By using these releasing techniques, the muscles can function to their fullest potential from its release as it is incredibly malleable.

Managing sensations and discomfort

Difficult or long-held positions may generate strong sensations that may cause discomfort and an urge to escape the pose. If this sensation is paid attention to, it will most likely intensify. It’s a bit of an analogy for life: when things arise that we don’t like, there’s not always the opportunity to disappear. However, if we are aware of our reaction, the sensations may pass and the need to escape diminishes.

Nerve ‘stretching’

In these positions it’s important to be very subtle in the movements. Nerves do not stretch, they glide, so the action of lifting the fingers will encourage that. The term ‘stretch’ is commonly used but you’re not actually stretching the nerves, you are activating them to glide so they remain healthy.

Allow knees to bend

People with restricted hamstring length may consequently have a more posteriorly tilted pelvis in this position. By being able to tilt their pelvis more anteriorly, the student will be able to lengthen their lower back more and ‘untuck’ their pelvis.

Poses

Ardha chandrasana | Half moon pose

This pose strengthens the legs and ankles and helps improve balance and stability. Regular practice will improve concentration and because of the strong extension of the spine, it helps correct alignment and makes the back supple.

Crescent lunge | High lunge

This pose strengthens the legs and arms and stretches the groins. It can be a great preparation for warrior 1

.

Parsvottanasana | Pyramid pose

This pose helps to maintain mobility in the neck and shoulders & wrists (in the full pose). The abdominal muscles and legs are strengthened. The spine, hips and hamstrings are stretched. When the head is below the heart it’s also a calming pose.

Utkatasana | Chair pose

This, as the name suggests, is like sitting on an imaginary chair. The shoulders and ankles are made more flexible and the pose strengthens the legs and arms. The abdominal organs and spine are toned and the chest is fully expanded, stimulating the diaphragm and heart.

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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