Don’t be a Slave to Yoga: Make it YOUR Slave

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.

Final Words

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
Fitness Professional

12 Responses

  1. Excellent article, John! Very helpful and very well done!!

  2. Cheryl Malone

    As a long time practitioner and teacher of yoga I am so glad you wrote this article. Cookie cutter yoga has bugged me for a long time. It’s like teachers don’t understand that each person is different. The bones fit into the sockets differently which allows one person to do something that the next person can’t and never will be able to . Structural can never be changed but muscular can.

    I am all for teaching students to be more creative with their practice; serves them far more than doing the standard gym yoga. So many teachers down dog/ up dog their students to fatigue; making them think they have had a workout. My students are learning ‘cricket’ and they love it. Prasara Yoga is demanding but well worth the effort and for myself and my students; I can modify where needed. My ‘war cry’ is LET THE BODY RIDE THE BREATH!

  3. Another great article John and it illustrates another reason I am so amped on CST.

    I was introduced to yoga in my teen’s by a friend who took me go to a yoga class. I went a few times and loved the challenge and the feel of the release but was not really into the spiritual aspect so much and it seemed that there was an attitude that if you weren’t into that part you shouldn’t be there. I bailed on the class thinking this was just the way of yoga but carried some of the basics throughout my athletic endeavors, using them as my cool-down and stretching methods. Admittedly there was some dumb self-concious feelings of “how do I look doing this” involved too.

    After reading/listening to Coach Sonnon’s views on yoga and watching his expression of Prasara, it really struck a chord and now is opening a whole new world for me. I have not had the funds for the Prasara DVD/Book but I found Coach Hurst’s Yoga for Spies video (His Yoga for Men site has some great articles and resources) and have modified it by adding in some other basic poses, working to build my strength and a good base to move further into the Prasara movements.

    As you related that it is your hardest wing of CST to stay consistent with, it is actually the area that I really seem to be drawn to. Much of my other exercise activities involve speed and stamina (heavy bag, surfing, biking, basketball) and the yoga (along with Intu-flow) is such a great compensatory action for all of this and more and I really get lost in time and space while doing it. It has really helped me in my Flow-Fit practice too, almost a slower practice/strength building version.

    One last note is that I have come to realize that yoga really is spiritual, only it is what I feel and experience and not what someone else tells me it should be. It is a personal practice and I dig it.

    Cheers,
    Dusty

  4. Cheryl Malone

    Dusty you have discovered something that not many students learn; that the spiritual come from within ourselves not what others try to pump into us. Take a win on that; it saves you many years of searching. Yes, it’s a very personal practice. I am happy for you.

  5. Cheryl Malone

    Dusty-google Prasara Yoga – Cricket Flow. This is Ryan Hurst in Japan; I think you will like it.

  6. Nice article John. The more I get into my CST practice the more I love Prasara. I feel so good at the end of Low Intensity Prasara day and completely energized for the workout that follows the day after .

  7. Great article John! Wonderful approach to a practice that has become so commercialized and packaged on the assembly line. Not to mention the outlook it provides to be able to tackle our tougher challenges;).

    These have been really great articles you’ve been writing. Very informative, very well put together and sincere thought put into it. I always enjoy the read.

  8. Thanks Cheryl, Yes I have this video in my YouTube favorites along with most of Coach Hurst’s others. He is very inspirational with such a balance of strength and control. I am just starting to work on arm balances, definitely challenging.

  9. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    PS – I’m happy for you, too, Dusty :-)

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