May 28, 2016
True yogis know that a strong yoga practice is less about mastering poses and more about finding and maintaining your intention, both on and off the mat.
Just ask Chad Dennis, who has been teaching yoga since 1998. His creative and intelligent sequencing is a result of studying not just many forms of yoga, but anatomy, kinesiology, physical therapy and psychology as well. In addition to working as the Director of Yoga at Wanderlust Hollywood, Chad has spent the past ten years traveling the world as Maroon 5’s private yoga instructor.
Whether you’re a celebrity or a soccer mom, Chad’s best advice for a successful yoga practice is to be fully present. “To be fully and completely absorbed with a task at hand has infinite physiological and psychological benefits,” he explains. “Stepping into the flow state forces the world and its various dramas to fall by the wayside and allow you to see what they simply are: mental illusions.”
Although classes will be held on Tres Santos’ outdoor yoga pavilion, the hilltop sanctuary is also a lovely spot for a solitary yoga practice any time of day. It’s an indulgence that Chad highly recommends. “To me, practicing yoga outdoors takes an already beautiful ritual and elevates it even more,” he says. “To be able to reconnect with nature on such a deep level can be truly transformative.”
To help you make the most of your outdoor practice, Chad has created a well-rounded sequence of poses that will develop strength, flexibility and mental acuity. All you need to bring is yourself.
1. Start with traditional Cat/Cow poses. This helps bring awareness to the spine and hips and introduces the concept of pairing a particular breath with a specific movement.
2. Continue with several rounds of Chandra Namaskars. “I’m a huge fan of these forms of vinyasa early in the practice as they take the body through softer joint movements,” explains Chad.
3. Once you feel the body is sufficiently warmed, move into a traditional Surya Namaskar A’s or B’s. Complete 4 or 5 rounds to really build heat.
4. Next, dive into a variety of long-held standing poses. Since hip tightness is a major source of discomfort for most practitioners, performing 2 to 3 externally-rotated hip poses can be highly beneficial. These can include, but are certainly not limited to, Warrior 2, Extended Side Angle, Triangle and Half Moon.
5. Since the hips and back share connective tissue, moving into back bending poses after hip openers is a natural and organic next step. Simple yet effective, back bends such as Lotus and Bow help tone the muscles of the back and reopen the front of the body, which, for many people, is closed and collapsed.
6. From back bends, move into some form of gentle twist to help neutralize the spine.
7. From there, the entire bod would benefit from a calming and cooling forward fold like Half Fish, which would also wring out the internal organs and reset any misalignments of the spine.
8. Since this sequence is very traditional, I would also end with some form of traditional forward fold such as Intense Western Stretch or even Cobbler’s Pose, which marries a graceful forward motion with hip-opening elements.
9. “Even if I’m pressed for time, I always leave room at the end of my practice for Savasana,” says Chad. “This gives all the various systems of the body the opportunity to assimilate the nectar of the practice and for the nervous system to slow down.”
10. Throughout the practice, don’t forget to breathe. “When my mind wanders, as it often does, I very gently bring myself back to breath observation,” says Chad. “This act of returning the mind’s eye to the breath may need to happen a hundred times over the course of an hour practice, so don’t get discouraged. Our minds, though restless and relentless, can, like the physical body, also be trained.”