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Studio-type Yoga classes

Adhitthana Yoga (Yoga of Strong Determination) Sept 4, 2014

Adhitthana Yoga (Yoga of Strong Determination)

Adhitthana means 'strong determination'. I first encountered this word while doing Vipassana meditation where we held our sit without moving our hands and feet for about an hour, enduring the increasing pain while keeping the mind equanimous. I saw how this can apply to yoga.

Asana (Poses)
I developed this sequence using asanas that can be held longer, whose difficulty increases as the pose is sustained - so it can't be a difficult balancing asana (since you might lose the balance before you reach the discomfort threshold) or an easy asana (because it will take a long time to reach the discomfort threshold). The asanas are not new. They are the traditional poses - as long as it is possible to hold a pose for a longer time that constantly increases the strain, bordering on pain at some point. It's not Yin Yoga where you hold a pose longer but it doesn't produce as much discomfort - you can practically melt into the pose.

The Real Challenge
The challenge however, is not in holding the asana for a length of time - that's a given. It's about developing an awareness on the breath and body sensation with a quiet mind while the discomfort increases. The habit pattern of the mind is to react automatically to pain with aversion. By holding the pose longer, we increase the pain, but the greater challenge is to observe the pain with an equanimous mind - not to react to it.

The benefits are numerous:

  1. develops strong muscularity on the muscles engaged (quads for chair pose)

  2. increases mental resolve - it is a proven fact that when the mind gives up, the body follows. A strong mind supports the body in all its undertaking.

  3. allows longer time for the body to fully adjust itself into the pose

  4. we develop the habit of being non-reactive. This maintains our awareness to think about our exercisable options in times of crisis instead of going into auto-pilot with our reflex actions.

  5. activates the parasympathetic nervous system - allows the body to relax itself when it's not really a 'fight' or 'flight' situation. In the workplace and living in the big city, we are immersed in stress 24/7 that the body is constantly in a 'fight' or 'flight' mode (sympathetic nervous system), with no reprieve for relaxation - this lowers our immune system and makes us sick. In parasympathetic mode, the body is able to recover and heal itself.


  • downward dog - a few breaths then slowly walk the hands to the feet into a forward bend
  • hang - fold the arms into the elbows and just hang there, doing nothing, letting gravity do its work
  • right hand to left angkle, twist, other side
  • hang
  • release the arms and on one long inhale, vertebrae by vertebrae, roll up into standing (Samasthitihi)
  • knee stirring
  • hip stirring
  • quad stretch
  • hands to big toe
  • palm under feet
  • clasp hands behind back

II Heat Movement

  • Surya Namaskar A - 2x
  • Surya Namaskar B - 2x
  • Burpee - jump, snap back into plank, side planks, slowly lower to Chaturanga, upward dog, push up, downward dog, jump forward, jump again (5/4/3/2/1x)

III Adhitthana Surya Namaskar Poses

chair pose, utkatasanaSurya Namaskar to chair pose (Utkatasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure
plank posecontinue the Surya Namaskar until jumping back into plank
hold for 10 breaths or until failure
chaturanga posevery slowly lower down into Four-Limbed Staff (Chaturanga)
5 breaths while going down until you reach the low point
upward dog posecontinue into Upward Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
hold for 5 breaths while getting extablished into the pose
downward dog posecontinue into Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
hold for 10 breaths
downward dog posecontinue into Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana )
hold for 5 breaths
finish the rest of the Surya Namaskar

IV Adhitthana Core Poses

side plank, VasisthasanaSurya Namaskar to upper plank, move body weight to left hand and roll over to the right side for side plank (Vasisthasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure. Back to center and repeat on the other side.
boat pose, Navasanacontinue the Surya Namaskar until Downward Dog, and jump through the hands directly into boat pose (Navasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure. Cross legs and lift the body up and back into Navasana. Repeat 3x.
bridge, Setu Bandha Sarvangasanatransition into Dandasana then go to bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana / Purvottanasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure.

V Adhitthana Backbend Poses

locust, Salabhasanatransition into Dandasana then go into a forward bend, release, cross legs and jump into plank, lower all the way down, body flat on the mat. Inhale and do locust (Salabhasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure.
bow, Dhanurasanawith the body still flat against the mat, bend knees and grab the ankles with both hands, knees hip-width apart. Inhale lifting the chest and knees, belly against the mat into bow pose (Dhanurasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure. Release and go into Dandasana, then transition into a seated forward bend for counter pose.
camel pose, Ustrasanakneel down, toes tucked-in, knees hip-width apart, thighs perpendicular to the floor, pressing the feet firmly against the mat. Rest your hands on the top part of the buttocks fingers pointed down and start leaning back. Release one hand and hold onto the heels. Do the same with the other hand. If this is too easy, press the top of the feet against the floor instead. Push the pelvis to the front and push the chest up to the ceiling for camel pose (Ustrasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure. Release and go into Dandasana, then transition into a seated forward bend for counter pose.
wheel, Urdhva Dhanurasana lie flat on the back, bend the knees until you can grab the ankles, feet hip width apart. Inhale and lift the chest and belly as high as they go into a wheel pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure. Release and go into Dandasana, then transition into a seated forward bend for counter pose.

VI Adhitthana Arm Balances

crow, Bakasanafind yourself in Downward Dog and move the feet closer to the hand and do the crow (Bakasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure.

VII Adhitthana Inversions

headstand, Salamba Sirsasanafind yourself in Downward Dog, kneel down, cup the hands and proceed to headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure. Release and stay in Child's Pose.
handstand, Adho Mukha Vrksasanause a wall as very few people can do unsupported handstand, let alone doing a 'strong determination' handstand. Kick up the wall into headstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
hold for 10 breaths or until failure.

VIII Closing into Final Corpse Pose

half lord of the fishes, Ardha Matsyendrasana this is not really a pose for Adhitthana but a good seated twist to close the session. Seated, do half lord of the fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
hold for 10 breaths. Do the other side.
corpse pose, Savasanawe close the session by lying face up on our mats, hands stretched to the sides, palms face-up, feet dangling to the sides for corpse pose (Savasana)
stay here until the breath normalizes. Session ends here.

--- TheLoneRider

FYI / Tips

  • watch your breath - if your breathing is getting too fast and shallow, you are already reacting to the stress
  • point of failure - 10 repeats may not be long enough to reach the discomfort threshold. If that is the case, go for point of failure, although every student will have a different point of failure. The ones who rest early can go into Child's Pose until the last student gives up.

Yoga-Sequence Series

Reader Comments:

Jason RoblesJason Philippines
(Sept 4, 2014) ...very interesting

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