Imagine a yoga flow without transitions: Standing up to lying down to standing up to sitting down and stumbling from pose to pose. This would not only feel awkward and dangerous, but deprive the yogi of training the body and mind to become aware of one’s own nature.
At the core of every yoga sequence are movements that seamlessly blend together to engage your muscles while facilitating a rhythmic breathing pattern. Transition poses neutralize the body, preparing it for the next pose as well as the more challenging poses in the sequence. They also act as a bridge between each position for a fluid practice.
Here are common transition poses to add to your sequence so you can flow with grace and ease:
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
It may seem as simple as standing, but it’s important to be aware of your body and have the correct alignment to set the stage for the rest of the practice.
HOW TO DO IT: As you stand tall, usually at the front of your mat, make sure you feel grounded with your feet hip-width apart or your big toes touching and heels apart. Arms remain alongside your body with your palms facing out or at your chest in prayer position.
Firm your thighs and lift your kneecaps. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pelvic girdle toward the navel. From here you can transition into any forward fold or standing pose.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
There’s a reason this pose is one of yoga’s most symbolic poses. You may find yourself in this triangular shape throughout your practice, as it's a key transition pose. It’s common to transition into plank, inverted poses, the warriors or stepping (or jumping) through your arms to make your way onto your sit bones.
HOW TO DO IT: Balance your weight in your arms and feet while keeping your hips high in the air, forming a peak between your hands and feet. The balls of your feet stabilize the lower half of your body but don't bear as much weight as your arms. The lack of torso twisting in the downward dog lets you streamline your movement, making it ideal for fast-paced yoga sequences.
3. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
The cobra position stretches and prepares your body to transition from a face-down prone position to a full standing or partially standing yoga pose. The supine position of your spine in cobra offers a momentary pause that stretches through the front of your torso and down your lower back.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your belly and bringing your hands forward, raising your upper body off the mat. Planting the balls of your feet is a gentle way to enter into the next pose of your yoga sequence.
4. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
The kneeling lunge squares your hips while positioning your upper body in an upright position.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a lunge. The foot in front of your hip remains flat to support a 45-degree angle bend in your knee. The other leg extends behind your rear as you balance your weight on your knee. Resting your weight on your front, bent leg makes raising yourself easier as you walk your back foot forward.
Other variations of this pose include raising your arms straight above your shoulders or twisting your spine to the side with one arm parallel to your front leg and the other parallel to your back leg. Twisting your torso in the kneeling lunge neutralizes your spine but also makes balancing your weight more challenging.
5. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This is the most common pose to transition into any seated position.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on your heels with your knees wide apart or together. Fold your torso over or between your knees and either extend your arms or leave them by your side.
What Do YOU Think?
What are some of the most effective transitions in your practice? Though we only touched on five, almost every pose works as a transition, as long as it easily guides the yogi into the forthcoming pose. What matters most is that the transition feels natural and effortless in the body as the yogi flows.