A practice that opens the upper channels of the body (shoulders & upper back). The practice culminates in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) and variations. Ending with Viparita Karani (Inverted Action Pose) and a delicious Savasana (Corpse Pose).
In this 80-minute audio class, instructor Matt Harris focuses largely on opening the upper back and shoulders as he slowly builds the practice towards a penultimate posture, bridge pose. Harris incorporates a strap later in the session, but he also suggests that his students have a block and a blanket handy if needed. Throughout the class, music can sometimes be heard in the background, although it is largely obscured by the sound of Harris’s instruction (as well as the occasional shifting noise of his microphone).Harris has his students begin in a bent leg standing forward bend. From this position, he leads them through a gradual warm-up series, guiding them between bent and straight legs, hanging and flat back, and eventually alternating these moves with chair pose and a shoulder stretch. This is followed by a high lunge with a twist; again, there is a strong emphasis on opening the upper back. Next, Harris cues the first down dog of the day, providing ample setup for this posture. As the class moves from down dog to plank to chaturanga, Harris instructs the first of several locust-cobra sequences, each of which offer slightly different variations to open the upper body in unique ways. Coming to standing, Harris has the class continue the upper back opening work by performing warrior 1 with eagle arms and then both extended side angle and triangle poses with binds. After repeating the standing postures on the second side and moving through another locust-cobra variation, Harris introduces a one-legged side plank. This is followed by a low lunge practiced with the hands in reverse prayer; when moving out of this posture, he has the group pause briefly in pyramid pose to stretch before continuing on to the other side. This series concludes with another locust-cobra variation as well as another one-legged side plank.At this point, Harris begins to focus even more intensely on the shoulders and upper back. He starts with half-dog and moves into dog pose #3 (a.k.a. dolphin pose). Then, having his students come seated in hero’s pose, he leads them into a series of shoulder stretches using the strap (the influence of one of Harris’s teachers, Erich Schiffmann, is clearly seen here). Following this, the students move to their stomachs for bow pose followed by several additional variations of cobra. Next, the participants return to a supine position for reverse plank; Harris brings them into this posture slowly, prepping with table pose. Finally, the group is ready for bridge pose. Harris cues several variations, including using the strap across the feet. For the final version, he has the students support their hips with their hands for what he calls a type of supported shoulderstand or viparita karani. For the closing sequence, Harris instructs the class to take five breaths with their legs to one side, five breaths with their legs to the other side, five breaths in bound angle, and finally, a long rest in savasana (approximately 6 minutes) before he brings the students to a seated position to conclude with namaste.As Harris notes during this session, bridge is sometimes overlooked in the rush to move on to more advanced backbends such as wheel. This class provides an excellent opportunity to work on this important posture, and it is ideal for yoga students who may not yet be ready to advance their backbending practice.