The “Creative Sequencing” workshop I took a few weeks back continues to inspire me as I play around with moving half-pigeon. Traditionally, in the style of vinyasa/power yoga that I practice, half pigeon comes near the end of the class, after the backbends. However, if you’re looking to make the backbends the high point of class, the poses that all the other poses build up to, it’s more useful to put half pigeon before the backbends rather than after. (This was news to me and it really rocked my world in a good way! I LOVE having the freedom to get creative and scientific with my sequencing.)
When I ‘m teaching my Vinyasa II/III and Power Yoga III classes, or any group that I know is more advance/has strong energy, I have been sequencing my classes so the pinnacle comes with the backbends. HUGE full body connectors, back bends open the entire front line of the body, activating pretty much every major and minor muscle and every chakra. Most of the activity, I find anyways, is centered in the 4th or heart chakra, called Anahata. The heart is the energetic space that connects the lower body with the upper body, provides an energetic bridge between the two and is the space most strongly activated in backbends. Others have spoken at much greater length and with far more eloquence about this than I have, so if you’re interested check out Anodea Judith’s Eastern Body, Western Mind.
One of the main reasons for moving half pigeon BEFORE the backbends, rather than after, is that with open hips, backbends become that much easier. When placed as the pinnacle of the class, the whole body has been stretched, strengthened and opened and it’s the final job of the backbends to connect all that energy built up in both halves of the body.
When in half pigeon, I encourage students to stay with an active ujjayi breath to keep their energy and heat up. We also learned in the workshop that after deep hip work it’s always a good idea to restabilize the hips, low back and abs with some ab work. One of my favorite ways to do this is the “kill two birds with one stone” approach and have the student put a block between their thighs and go through 2 sun salutations with a long utkatasana hold in between. This stabilizes everything as well as ramps up the energy and internal heat — perfect prep for backbends!
Here’s a general outline of the sequence I’ve been teaching:
Moving Towards Backbends
downward facing dog
down dog to plank
broken vinyasa/gentle twist
standing side bends
3 Sun As
3 Sun Bs/Cs
three-legged dog with hip opener
extended side angle
half moon (in the 75/90 minute classes)
pivot to front
eagle/figure four with arms extended
vinyasa to down dog
runner’s lunge into prasarita A
prasarita C/ gentle twist/ “kung fu” lunges (depending on class energy)
walk hands back around to runner’s lunge
three legged dog
three-legged dog with hip opener/flip dog
ab work: 2 sun As with block between thighs or dolphin plank with thigh block
2/3 bridge wheels (depending on class length)
supta baddha konasana
gentle spinal twist
optional second spinal twist
What do you think teachers and students? Where do you like your half pigeon?