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Ahimsa Yoga Flow - Bringing Yoga Philosophy into Your Classes



My goal this year in my Yoga classes and my own practice was to focus on 'Limbs other than Asana.' It can be easy to forget that there are seven other limbs of Yoga that must be practised just as much as the physical poses!

I began by looking at the Yamas - I picked a Yama to guide my planning of each class, during which I would spend five minutes explaining it at the beginning, set a clear goal or focus for the lesson and then continually remind students to come back to that goal throughout the class. The sequence was also inspired by whatever we were focusing on through what I as a teacher felt would bring out that goal.


This practice is for Ahimsa, the first Yama.


I begin the class by settling in, connecting with the breath and the mind. I then begin to explain that there are Eight Limbs of Yoga, the first is the Yamas which are universal truths and that the first Yama is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means kindness, compassion, non-violence and love. This Yama tells us that we must be kind and compassionate towards all beings and towards ourselves. Many of us are already practising Ahimsa by showing up on the mat - we are giving our body, mind and spirit the love it deserves by dedicating time to nourish it. However, by coming to the mat we are also practising Ahimsa for others; if you are physically able, you can help other people or play with your kids, if you are mentally calm you are more patient and empathetic with other people and you can be present with them. So just by doing a Yoga practise, we are already starting to practice Ahimsa. I explain that throughout the physical practice we will find times where we can radiate love and kindness and compassion out into the world and other times where we can feel love vibrate through us and feel that compassion for ourselves.


This class contains many heart-opening poses followed by closed, folded poses. Each heart opener is for radiating kindness, each fold is for feeling love for yourself.


We begin with simple body rolls, sitting cross-legged and circling, rolling through the spine to begin to warm up and connect with the body.


Next, we move to some cat cows (Bitilasana Marjaryasana), to connect breath to the body, continue warming up and start to feel that notion of radiating love in an open stretch and vibrating inner love in a closed stretch.


Make your way to standing (tadasana) however you like, I usually take students through child's pose (balasana), then a downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), walking to the top of the mat for a forward fold (uttanasana) and then rolling up to standing.


Set up your mountain pose (tadasana) and complete 4 rounds of a Classical Sun Salutation (Classical Surya Namaskar) (adjust what Salutation you do depending of the ability level of your class. Remember this is a warm up, so be gentle).


Continue to flow:

SS (sun salutation) --> Downward Dog

Lift right leg to 3-legged dog (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana) then swing right foot up to in between hands

Lift hands to High Lunge (ashta chandrasana) on the inhale, turn back heel out to Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) on exhale.

Hold for two breaths

On an exhale bend elbows and open chest, adding slight backend if available

Hold for two breaths

Inhale interlace hands together behind back

Exhale fold forwards and bring tummy to thigh, tucking chin in towards chest to Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana).

Hold for two breaths

Exhale bring hands down to mat

Inhale step back to high plank (uttihita chaturanga dandasana)

Chaturanga

Inhale lift right heel up to three-legged dog again

Exhale come forward to an active half pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) position (pigeon without putting the right leg down on the mat)

Inhale press back to 3 legged dog

Repeat twice more, finishing by placing the right knee down into half pigeon.

Bring hands slightly behind the body and open chest

Hold for two breaths

Fold forwards over bent knee

Hold for two breaths

Press back to downward dog and repeat flow on the other side.


After this flow, I ask students to think of a pose that they love, either because it makes them feel good about themselves or because it makes their body/mind feel good while they're doing it. Ask them to practice whatever pose this is for at least 5 breaths (I always remind/offer students the option of child's pose here, to help those who find this notion of choosing a pose stressful).


Next, practice a single-leg forward fold (janu sirsasana) on the right leg, hold for 5 breaths.

Inhale to sit back up, exhale bring right hand to left knee (opposite hand comes to the bent knee) and bring the left hand behind the body, coming to a gentle seated twist (variation of parivrtta sukhasana). Hold for 5 breaths.

Inhale as you lift the left hand up overhead, exhale as you read towards the right foot, coming to a side bend (variation of parsva upavistha konasana). Hold for 5 breaths

Inhale to come up, exhale plant the left hand down behind you. Inhale as you come up onto the bent knee, reaching right arm up overhead to a low wild-thing (camatkarasana) variation. Hold for 5 breaths. Exhale to come down, repeat on the other side.


Draw the soles of the feet together for boung angle pose (baddha konasana). While in this pose, give your feet a little massage - they need some love too!


Lower yourself down to a reclined position on the mat and make your way into Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani). Explain how restorative and relaxing this pose can be. Hold for 5-10 breaths.


Come to a reclined twist (supta matsyendrasana) and hold for 20 breaths. Repeat on both sides.


Savasana (corpse pose)


After Savasana, we make our way back to sitting and I will remind students to think about how that can carry this notion of being kind and compassion throughout their day and into their lives before finishing.


Find my explanation of Ahimsa here. Find this flow on Instagram for free. Find the full practice on Rise and Yoga Online.


I hope this helps any Yoga teachers out there who want to know how to bring the Yamas and Yoga Philosophy into your classes, I know I couldn't find full classes like this online when I was looked for something to take inspiration from! I hope you enjoy this practice and let me know how it goes for you.


Wishing you all love and light!


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