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In the Yoga class focusing on the glutei this week, I move us through a series of asana intended to get at the thighs. We work the hamstrings and the gluteal muscles throughout this vinyasa. This is a little more challenging than our usual asana practice. If you have not taken a moment or do not consider your yoga practice to be intermediate, it is highly suggested that you would true a more introductory level yoga class from our lineup.
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To summarize this practice, we spend a lot of time working through Standing Split movements. When we do so, we are emphasizing movements of the leg with full engagement of the thigh and the gluteal muscles. These subtle movements are what I would recommend to my personal training clients who are working on the gluteal muscles. This is because the gluteal muscles help support us as we move our body in all directions. More importantly, it helps us for bracing. Bracing is what you do when you engage the core and the gluteal muscles together to help support your body into more complex poses.
Moreover, we took more seriously the need to engage with our breath throughout the practice this week. This is seen in this class as well as the classes from the past few days. We also take key opportunities to engage and work through our body scans by tapping into before-and-after experiences. This is a new feature of classes the past few days. By self-assessing ourselves at the beginning and end of a practice, we can learn more about what our body is trying to say to us. One of the more prominent exercises I have featured is the experience of trying cold water. When we assess our body through a body scan, we can follow this up, attempting to inhale energy into the tight parts of our body. This example with the cold water allows us to assess ourselves prior to the simple act of drinking water. We follow up the assessment with actually drinking the water. At the end of the exercise, you take a moment to scan the body again and notice anything what were feeling that has changed. I think this is a particularly impactful exercise because it can show how our body manifests our discomfort. The simple act of consuming cold water helps us reassess ourselves and perhaps, just for a moment, take ourselves less seriously and relax.
In all, this practice targets lengthening the muscles of the legs and takes time to move us into strengthening exercises.
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What Were the Goals of This Class?
Some of the sensations that I want to bring about with the class include:
- Engaging all four corners of the foot to engage in the inside thighs.
- Finding balance by stacking the joints before we begin more challenging poses.
- The gluteal muscles are the seat to everything!
On this last point, I teach a gluteal muscle class every week because I want to make sure that my students, who are more likely to be sitting in front of a screen all day, are able to get out of their seats and strengthen their seat. One of my favorite queer theorists uses this example: as you sit all day in your squishy seat, your squishy seat becomes you.
Throughout the last two weeks, we have been working on core movements. Specifically, getting movement for the gluteal muscles and then moving into more intense core work at the end. Initially, we begin in a downward-facing dog pose. After the downward-facing dog, we move into a more standard practice of (1) “draw your leg to the sky” (2) “draw your knee to your nose.” We move through this in tandem with our breath to cultivate a sense of sameness with the breath as we focus on difficult core work.
At the end of the class, we reinforce this by taking a moment to work on our leg lifts and our swimmer kicks. These are important because they intensify a focus on the lower abs. We spend a ton of time “drawing the low-belly in,” and it’s important to build upon that work by providing the core with the muscle growth necessary to continue to meet our needs in practice. Hence why this class is titled more appropriately as an intermediate yoga class.
As I hope I’ve previously stressed, incorporating adaptive yoga techniques is critical to creating a more inclusive yoga space and practice. Throughout the practice, I seek to build upon the foundation we have been building throughout the last few weeks. When we create stability, we can create more growth. Slow progress is always better than quickly stepping into something we’re more uncertain of.
As I will discuss below, I find that the standing splits pose is one of a couple of better options within the category of bodyweight exercise that really packs a powerful “grow” on the gluteal muscles. As you can see in the picture for this section, it’s particularly important to squeeze the gluteal muscles while bringing the hips to an even level to get the best muscle growth out of the poses. Here, I also take this pose to the blocks as we have been doing the past few practices. By incorporating blocks and learning to use them regularly, we can create more space for the upper body, allowing the practitioner to focus on “squeezing the glutes” and “balancing the hips.”
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One of the beautiful features of adaptive yoga is choosing when you want to remain in adaptive poses to create more space. Over time, you can continue to build on an adaptive practice. Alternatively, you can work toward different expressions of standing splits.
Perhaps another adaptive technique worth discussing from this class was using the mat to create more space for the lower body. When we take the time and space for our bodies, we can feel more stability in our pose. One example I use in this class is to bring the feet out to the edges as a stand in Warrior 2. This is an important adaptation, especially when I feel like I am having trouble remaining in a pose like Warrior 2. By creating space for the hips, I can decrease my self-consciousness that I’m not quite stacked in the correct places; it can also provide new sensations I’m not otherwise experienced much.
We initially begin a new sequence with low lunge work. We press into the front leg to create more space and engage all parts of the thigh. We take a moment to focus on the calves, and then we move into half-splits. I would add that attempting to create more spaces removed my ability to stack the joints. Typically I suggest that we move toward the direction of stacking the joints. However, to move toward an alternative expression of the hips, we begin to move the feet further apart.
Another position we can continue to build on with blocks is the pose I’ll discuss, without blocks, next. The half-splits pose helps us work towards a full expression of the splits. We have been working on splits throughout the last few weeks. You can even see it paying off in this practice today. I am super proud of the way of how this turns out today. At the end of the expression, we work to draw the distance between our feet to create more space and develop more muscle memory around the splits.
I move us through standing splits and half-splits poses at different points in the practice. As we attempt to gather the gumption to get into more challenging full-expressions of the splits, I keep trying to emphasize the necessity of lengthening and strengthening with my students. Lengthening is what we all associate with yoga. However, by taking the opportunity to move through more stabilizing movements such as a repeated standing split, we engage the core and create muscle memories that support us when we come into more challenging crescent lunges and the warrior sequences.
The Final Twists
Just before we get into the class’s final exercises, we take a moment to move through some more twists. These twists create more space and help us achieve a fuller sense of our proprioception. Ultimately, we choose to take a twist in thunderbolt pose after we work on some gluteal muscle stuff.
I wanted to include multiple twists at the end. As such, we move to Crescent Lunge and in toward a twist. When we do this, we change the focus from our legs towards breathing while we remain in a twist. When we do this, we work on our valuable proprioception. To review, proprioception is our sense of our body in time and space. When we do activities to increase our sense of proprioception, we can better assess and adjust where our body is in time and space.
End Gluteal Muscle Movements
At the end of the practice, I move us through exercises rather than more formalized yoga poses.
Initially, we begin with gluteal movements such as a knee flexion movement. This is of particular importance in our growth because Knee Flexion exercises remove the hamstrings’ ability and the quadriceps to act as synergists with the gluteal muscles. In short, by activating the gluteal muscles in this way, we can ask more of our seats. After we work through this knee flexion exercise, we follow the movement with a child’s pose to restore the neutral spine.
I have been particularly mindful of how important my naked yoga practice has been to my overall yoga practice. I have a ton of fun teaching these practices because all the stress I carry, I have to let go of; otherwise, you can see me holding onto it during the practice. I lose the stress of what I am wearing into the practice when I teach Naked Yoga and this is particularly impactful. There should be no stress in what you’re wearing to the practice and I have sought to demonstrate it through “taking myself a little less seriously” and wearing white briefs or other types of underwear throughout the last few weeks. As I continue to build on this valuable practice, I hope to incorporate more opportunities for the class to notice when we’re taking ourselves too seriously and can use this as a resource to understand critical improvements to relax.
Finally, as I have mentioned, I hold a ton of value in building our gluteal muscles. This is, simply, because the gluteal muscles help support all forms of our practices. Strong gluteal muscles can help support us in back bends, in forward bends, and all over the mat. I hope this practice can help work towards supporting this intention.
I wrote this post with (sponsored link) Grammarly. You can see my review of Grammarly here.