Transitions in Yoga!

Transitions make flows fun and dynamic. They help to create continuous movement that smoothly connects one pose to another. They allow for the body to experience fluidity that we may not in our busy everyday lives. I personally enjoy transitions a lot in Vinyasa Flows because it gives a creative touch and differentiates one flow from another.

However, many a times, we fail to appreciate the transitions themselves, often rushing through them or taking no notice of them. Well, it is no surprise since it may not feel as rewarding as the final pose itself or as relaxing as the next pose. Going from Chaturanga to Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), we find ourselves rushing through to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog) and then carelessly pushing back to downward facing dog so we can quickly rest, paddle our legs out and take a few more resting breaths. In another example, half-lifts are often neglected – we often just look upwards instead of straightening and lengthening our spine as we should – before jumping back to Chaturanga.

It takes effort, consciousness and awareness to accept and integrate all transitions properly in our practice, such that we can ultimately derive more satisfaction from our practice. With all this being said, I would like to highlight 2 different transitions that require attention and focus in order to facilitate proper execution and prevent injury.

Chaturanga -> Upward Facing Dog -> Downward Facing Dog

  • If done correctly, upward facing dog helps to open up your chest while engaging your legs. This helps you maintain an open chest during downward facing dog and prevent the pinching of shoulder.
  • How to do: on inhale, slowly press through arms and roll over the toes / flip them back. Arms should straighten without locking and biceps should roll forward to feel expansion across the chest. Collarbones should spread and shoulders should depress and retract. Actively press tops of fit and lift kneecaps, engage quads to prevent putting too much pressure/weight on the wrists.
  • If we rush through the pose and throw ourselves from Chaturanga to upward facing dog carelessly, it can lead to injury in shoulders, elbows, neck and lower back. We will also not be able to get the most out of the movement.
  • Alternative: Ashtanga Namaskar -> Cobra (Bhujangansana) -> Downward Facing Dog

One legged Closed hip posture -> One legged Open hip posture (vice versa)

  • Examples: Warrior 3 -> Half Moon, Half Moon -> Standing Splits
  • Common transitions in asanas that seem natural
  • Caution: One legged transitions from neutral to external (vice versa) results in combined compression (of cartilage – in moderation it is good) and shear (gliding force) that could create too much friction on the cartilage. The cartilage of the hip joint could diminish in volume and completely wear through and expose the bone. If it is missing, it can no longer interact with synovial fluid (a slipper lubrication) and the bone to bone friction increases. In long term, this could result in Labral tear, arthritis, and other degenerative joint problems.
  • How to counter:
    – Balance down the hip by putting down both legs then transition to the next pose.
    – Alternative B: Utthita Trikonasana -> Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana). This is a natural transition because the hip is already open and the weight is initially on both legs.
    – Alternative C (not as protective): Bend the standing leg and slowly straighten when opening the hip.