We propose that challenge can be increased through faster pacing (vinyasa / flow), slower pacing (longer holds) or both.
- Increase the pace by teaching a standing pose sequence that includes one pose per breath, whether the common vinyasa sequence from Surya Namaskar or any other movement flows coordinated with the breath.
- Some teachers speed up even more, teaching poses so quickly that they dictate a fast breath pace for students; we don’t personally practice or advocate this. As opposed to speeding up the flows, poses within the flow can be intensified. For instance, rather than going directly from Chaturanga to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana as is in traditional vinyasa, you could practice Plank >> Chaturanga ( tricep-focused push-up) 4 to 8 times before moving to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). Or go from One-Legged Dog to One Legged Plank or Plank & Chaturanga for example.
- Another approach to adding challenge is to slow the pace, focusing more on alignment actions that deepen the expression of individual poses. This is a powerful practice that newer teachers of flow styles may overlook. For dozens of alignment cues to consider for each pose, see the Asana Index to be taken to the deep Asana Digests.
- Beyond alignment instructions, longer holds give the opportunity to deepen into the pose, thereby increasing intensity and challenge. In standing poses, for instance, rather than staying for one breath, you might stay for multiple breaths, incorporating arm movements.
- Many teachers have created endless variations to increase challenge, such as in Crescent Lunge tapping knee of back leg to ground and then lifting back up, twisting, incorporating arm movements, etc.
- You may wish to add challenge using both these approaches, such as by using a vinyasa pace during the heat-building section (e.g. Sun Salutes) followed by a slower paced section of standing poses that focuses on deepening into the poses.