This is an example of a Prasara Yoga flow, with an emphasis on hand balance work. It’s being demonstrated by CST Head Coach Jarlo Ilano.
Prasara Hand Balance Flow
Coach Ilano created this yoga sequence (aka “flowchain” in CST) to work on the core strength necessary to transition between hand balance poses. Not only is he working isometric strength during the poses, he’s also working on improving his stability through mobility as he transition in between poses. This is Prasara at its finest! The core strength required to perform this flowchain smoothly is second to none.
One of the major things that sets Prasara Yoga apart from other modalities is that it emphasizes that every position is a “pose.” Or put another way, there’s no such thing as a pose, we just move in and out of positions by incorporating breathing, structure, and movement. So, not only is downward facing dog a common asana, but every millimeter that we must move to get into downward facing dog is a different pose, and we should treat that movement no differently. We don’t move in and out of poses. Rather, we are posed at all times! This goes right in line with being mindful of your movement.
The reason I wanted you to see this is to challenge your views and alter your perception of yoga. Too often, yoga is thought of as fluffy, new-age, mystical, and even relaxing. It can certainly be those things, and is sometimes blindly taught as a universal system that cannot be used outside of that context. Here in the West, yoga is mostly taught as a stretching or flexibility method, when that is not the reality. Yoga was never meant to lengthen the muscles, but strengthen them in extreme ranges.
On top of that, yoga was meant to be a physical practice that serves the individual needs of the yogis that use it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a method for expressing oneself physically. A yoga practice can and should be crafted to serve your personal needs. Therefore, yoga can take many forms.
If you need to relax more, then a gentle yoga practice may be perfect for you. If you have specific imbalances or over-compensations in your body, then yoga can be used to remove them. Yoga can and should be used to address your weaknesses.
In an interview I conducted with Scott Sonnon (part 1, part 2), something he said struck a cord with me. He said that his Prasara practice is quite intense, and that most people would be shocked at how quickly they are working hard and sweating – just from yoga! At the time for Scott, his needs and goals dictated that he has to work very hard to benefit from yoga. It wasn’t relaxing, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t gentle stretching. Instead, it was uncomfortable, tiring, and a channel for facing your fears that are stored in your body.
I can definitely relate. Yoga is one of the hardest practices I’ve ever adopted, and to be perfectly honest, it’s the most difficult aspect of my training to stay consistent with. The joint mobility, the clubbells, the bodyweight exercise, the MovNat, they all seem to come naturally to me. I excel in those activities because I enjoy them. Yoga, on the other hand, takes a lot of willpower to complete because I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be downright hard, and may have me exhaling long and deep as to prevent myself from grimacing in pain.
At the same time, I know that yoga needs to be at the top of my priorities. There’s a reason it’s so hard for me. It’s because I need it desperately. My lifestyle requires a regular yoga practice to stay healthy and fit. It’s no coincidence that the things we least want to do are often the things we most need to do.
What I want you to learn is that an asana is just a pose – just a form we can take for a moment. We are constantly moving through various pose’s, even if unconsciously while sitting in front of the computer. Even poor posture is a pose. Learning to view yoga through this lens will give you a good head-start on not just doing yoga, but living it. Staying mindful of your breathing, movement, and posture will carry over into every physical practice you participate in.
So, I challenge you. Don’t accept yoga for being a finite practice that has a particular end. Instead, view yoga more like an endless sea that you can explore for the rest of your life. Yoga becomes what you make of it. You don’t become what yoga makes you into. If you are interested in Prasara, then I highly recommend the Prasara Yoga Book and the accompanying Instructional DVD. The book will teach you how to individualize your yoga practice, and it includes instructions for 5 different Prasara flowchains. The DVD expands on these flowchains and gives you a visual to see the actual movements.
To your health and success,
CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT