08/07/2014 02:25 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2014



In yoga practice we often break down our sequences into series of poses. While this is a reasonable approach to organizing a class, a class is about much, much more.

The way we choose to transition between those poses can themselves be more important than the pose. Take the transition from standing with your arms overhead to the standing forward fold (Urdvha Hastasana to Uttanasana). We have many choices to make in this transition -- here's one approach.

While maintaining the shape of the spine, flex only at your hips -- the joint between your femur and hips. There should be no movement of your lower back, yet. The cue here is to keep your gaze up between your hands.

Once your hamstrings are fully extended and you can't flex from your hip joint, then allow the spine to flex, starting with your lumbar spine. Once your lumbar spine has flexed, then allow your thoracic (shoulders) and cervical (neck) vertebrae to flex, finally allowing your body to rest in Uttanasana.

(For the spine, flexion is curving forward, like a sit-up. Extension is a backbend, like up-dog.)

On top of all that, find an Ujayi breath, because the pacing of your exhale actually helps your body control its descent into Uttanasana -- it's not just your back muscles resisting gravity.

Now, reflect on what just happened -- you've just thought about at least five areas of motion. all from one of the most common transitions in yoga. And it helped you stay in the present.

If yoga is just a physical fitness activity for you, that is okay -- there are many benefits at that level. But if you've found that the benefits of mindfulness extend beyond the mat, then consider other transitions in life that could use some focus, too.