Teaching Modifications

To keep the integrity and knowledge of asanas clear, make sure that people know the full form of the pose you are teaching. for example, many people now think that parsvakonasana’s full form is the front forearm on the front thigh. if you are teaching this modification, make it clear that it is a modification. In some cases you can bring people all the way into the full form (front hand outside of front foot) and THEN back it up into the modified version so that it’s clear


Q: what is the difference between dhanurasana (bow pose) with hands holding the outside of the feet versus hands holding the ankles with feet flexed?

The version with holding the feet gives more of an experience of organic energy extending up. The version holding the ankles creates more muscular energy in the feet, empowers shoulder loop and allows a deeper curl in the upper back.

Leens I don’t feel super clear on this – I can see what’s happening in the ankles version, but not really sure what’s happening in the feet version. Any thoughts on this?

Handstand Assists

When doing a handstand assist (of pressing into someone’s hand to come up), many teachers make the mistake of having people come into downward dog, lifting the leg and coming into the handstand from there. Sianna said “As far as I am concerned this is the most advanced way to do it!” because you have to have ALOT of core strength to bring the hips over the shoulders – its a far distance to travel! A good distance for an intermediate student, or someone just learning handstands, would be to have them take a stance halfway between downward dog and uttanasana and then lift the leg. A more advanced student can come into it from uttanasana (with hands a little farther forward than normal) because they may be more open in their hamstrings.

Sianna also suggested the “team of three” to come into handstand – the handstander, the leg presser and the hip holder. one person stands behind the handstander, getting ready to hold their hips once they’ve pressed up. the leg presser presses a hand into their leg and helps them up! the hip holder takes a firm hold of both hips and gives them an organic boost up, making them feel steady and secure.

Movement vs. Action, Giving Just Enough

Sianna spent alot of time talking about learning to instruct action succinctly and economically. Alot of us were teaching action as we were bringing people into the pose, and getting too detailed right away. Sianna explained that this is a really easy way to lose people, if you are overloading them with too much information. Sianna suggested backing off, learning to bring everyone into the outer form of the pose, looking closely at everyone to see what was needed, and then layering the action instructions on top. She also stressed FOUNDATION – that so many people are busy instructing action but their students have misaligned foundations! Especially to demonstrate your skill as a teacher in a certification videos it is important to practice coming back and checking students foundations.

I think my learning edge here is looking at the students closely and being able to see what they need, and giving them enough instruction without overwhelming them. I also want to practice giving quick verbal adjustments to students to line their foundations up, to keep the flow of the class going but keep everyone’s foundations clear and precise.

Twisted Lunge (hands in prayer twist over front leg)

Rather than coming into this with hands in prayer and simply twisting over the front leg, Sianna suggested bringing the hands to the knees, pressing hands into the knees to create a big side body long and then on the exhale taking the arm all the way over. This also prevents binding in the psoas and hamstring, which is more likely to happen if you come into it without lengthening first.

Windshield Wipers

Sianna had a concern about bringing the ankle onto the knee in this pose, as it creates too much pressure on the medial collateral ligament and could eventually wear down and become a problem. To prevent this either don’t bring the ankle onto the knee 🙂 OR really practice SITO – if you have dropped the knees to the right, energize the left foot, lifting the baby toe side of the foot towards the outer knee, and keeping that widening the thigh and drawing it back and up towards the ceiling (the thigh will lift because the pelvis is at an angle) Then really stretch organic energy, can bring the top arm up and stretch, now it would be safe to bring the right ankle to the left knee. You can teach this in stages over time, until you see people can hold that action. It’s also alot of action to teach at the end of a class when people are relaxing, so feel that out and teach that kind of detail only if it makes sense for the studentship and level.

Cobra Arm Details

-Many people can bring their hands farther back because when they come up they end up pressing their hands forward rather than dragging back

-We don’t want to squeeze the elbows into the body, this is a common misalignment

-to practice getting the action, do this in the air. Bring your arms into cobra position in the air. Open to grace, melt the heart. Claw the hands in the air, then bring an expanding spiral to the lower arms to widen the elbows (forearms turn in). Then melt the heart, and create a contracting spiral, turning the upper arms out. Drag hands back. Ya should feel it in the mid back, around the bottom tips of the shoulder blades. Oh yeah.

– to teach beginners, teach on fingertips, widen the elbows out, melt the heart. do fun things like having them stretch their legs back one at a time, reach forward and grab the person’s foot in front of you and pull it back. then have them root back with that same energy themselves.