Align Your Inner World With This Yoga Advice From Nike Trainer Branden Collinsworth
"I never in a million years thought I would be into yoga," Branden Collinsworth, Nike master trainer, 200HR RYT, told POPSUGAR. He described himself as "that swole dude" who was into bench press and running fast 40-yard sprints. But in 2014, at the peak of his performance career, he realized he was miserable. "I was so unhappy. I was depressed," he said. This shocked him because "coming from the streets of Vegas, coming from being homeless, coming from growing up in housing projects, I thought once I got to that level of success, I'd be happy."
He knew he needed to do something to "change things up," explaining that something told him to travel, so he went on a solo trip to Bali. He began to practice yoga and noticed a shift in his mindset, gratitude, and levels of happiness, fulfillment, connection, awareness, and presence. In 2015, Collinsworth began to study yoga and fusing it with sports performance, creating the Primal Flow, which is available on the Nike Training app.
His flows explore playing with movement, and allows people to break out of the linear expression of yoga and move in three dimensions, with movements like hops, crawls, and spiraling squats, Collinsworth said. "My inspiration from it was to get people to step outside of the box, move, and explore aspects of their body that they may have not touched before." It's challenging, but it's an accessible flow for all levels.
One of Collinsworth's yoga goals is for people to "step into spaces that we may have not stepped into before," especially during the coronavirus pandemic. No matter your level, he emphasized that "it's about doing the best you can with where you're at and finding that edge." And once you've found your edge, breathing into it and expanding it every time you return to the mat.
He also wants people to think about inner intimacy as it pertains to their practice and existence. "When we start to align our inner world, the outer world becomes amplified," he said. "Yoga is an opportunity to get to know yourself and tune into the most valuable tool, which is breath," he continued. Focusing on your breath can help you relax, destress, feel more grounded, and be more present.
To help you start feeling the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of yoga, Collinsworth recommends focusing on standing and balancing poses to feel more grounded; backbends to open your heart and help you feel joyful; twists and heavy breathing, like Pranayama, to restore your body; and passive positions, like Savasana, "to drop us into deeper states of relaxation." If you're in need of pose inspiration, ahead you'll find poses you can begin implementing into your daily routine to feel more open, grounded, and relaxed.
Sanskrit Name: Tadasana or Samasthiti
English Translation: Mountain Pose or Equal Standing Pose
- Stand at the front of your mat, feet together, legs active, and arms by your sides.
- If you choose, this is the time to take a moment to bring your awareness inward, to create an intention for your practice or to make a dedication. Stay for five breaths.
Sanskrit Name: Virabhadrasana 1
English Translation: Warrior 1 Pose
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward between your hands. Turn your left heel in, press into your feet, and lift your torso up.
- Lift your arms up and press your palms together. Draw your shoulder blades down toward your hips and gaze up at your hands.
- Stay here for five breaths. Then come back to Downward Facing Dog, step your left foot forward and do Warrior 1 on the other side.
Sanskrit Name: Virabhadrasana 2
English Translation: Warrior 2 Pose
- Begin on your hands and feet in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward between your palms and come into Warrior 1.
- Extend your arms out in T-position as you rotate your torso to the left, coming into Warrior 2. Ideally your front thigh should be parallel to the ground and your right knee directly over your right ankle. Make sure your shoulders are stacked directly above your pelvis.
- Gaze past your right fingertips, holding for five breaths. Then return to Downward Facing Dog. Step your left foot forward and do this pose on the other side.
Here are more tips on how to do Warrior 2.
Upward Facing Dog
Sanskrit Name: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
English Translation: Upward Facing Dog Pose
Also Called: Up Dog
- Begin at the front of your mat in Mountain Pose. Inhale to lift your arms up and exhale to fold forward into Standing Forward Bend.
- Inhale and look up with a flat back and, as you exhale, step or jump your feet back into Four-Limbed Staff Pose.
- Inhale a breath as you scoop your chest forward, balancing on the tops of your feet and your hands, coming into Upward Facing Dog. Lower your head back between your shoulder blades. Pull your shoulders blades down your back and hold for five breaths.
Learn details about Upward Facing Dog Pose here.
- Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Take a big, deep inhale.
- On the exhale, round your spine up toward the ceiling, and imagine you're pulling your belly button up toward your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin toward your chest, and let your neck release. This is your cat-like shape.
- On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax, and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up toward the sky — without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow portion of the pose.
- Continue flowing back and forth from Cat Pose to Cow Pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for Cow Pose, and exhale on Cat Pose.
- Repeat for 10 rounds.
- Kneel at the front of your mat with your knees under your hips. Reach your right hand back toward your right heel, and then reach your left hand toward your left heel. Your hands are there for balancing support, so don't lean all your weight onto them. Try to shift your weight forward onto your knees, which will increase the stretch in your quads, belly, and chest.
- Lower your head behind you, and stay here for five breaths.
Read on for more details about correct alignment in Camel Pose.
Sanskrit Name: Bada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
English Translation: Bound Bridge Pose
Also Called: Bound Half Wheel
- Begin lying flat on your back with your arms along the sides of your body, with your palms facing down.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Walk your heels as close as you can to your tush, and turn your heels out slightly so the outside edges of your feet are parallel with the outside edges of your mat.
- With your palms and feet pressing firmly into the ground, lift your hips up. Try to keep your thighs parallel.
- Wrap your hands around your ankles. If you can't reach them, step your heels closer to your body. Rock your weight from side to side so you can pull your shoulders in and bring your shoulder blades closer together.
- Stay here for five deep breaths, actively pressing your feet into the floor to lift your hips up and increase the stretch in your torso and neck.
- Gently lower your bum back to the ground, and take a counter-pose by hugging your knees into your chest.
Set up for Bow Pose by lying on your belly, bending the knees to bring feet close to your glutes. Lifting the head and shoulders, reach arms back to grab feet with your hands, kicking into your grip until your belly is your primary point of contact with the ground. As you take five deep breaths, allow the movement of your breath to create a slight rocking motion, which in turn causes the ground to massage your internal organs and promote lymphatic drainage. Repeat two to three times, taking a brief Child's Pose in between each rep.
Sanskrit Name: Balasana
English Translation: Child's Pose
- Kneel on your mat with your knees hips-width distance apart, and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, lie your torso over your thighs. Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your arms beside your legs, with palms facing up, or try extending your arms out in front of you.
- Stay here for five breaths.
The ultimate hip stretch, this pose will also relieve tightness in your lower back. You can even do this one in bed!
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and hold onto your feet, ankles, or backs of the thighs.
- Gently pull your legs toward the floor, holding still or gently rocking side to side. Hold here for five breaths.
This hip opening pose is truly relaxing when you rest your torso over your front leg.
- Bring your right knee forward between your hands so your outer right leg is resting on the mat. If your hips are more open, inch your right foot away from you. Make sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat.
- Walk your hands out in front of you, allowing your torso to rest over your right knee. Hold here, breathing into any areas of tightness and tension for at least five breaths.
- Lie on your back, and close your eyes. In order to relax and open your body fully, extend your arms a few inches away from the body, with your palms facing up.
- Bring about 15 to 20 inches between your feet, allowing your feet to fall open with your toes pointing out. Actively shrug your shoulders and shoulder blades down toward your hips. Lengthen through your spine as much as possible, and try to press the small of your back into the floor.
- After you've found a comfortable position, enjoy the stillness for five to 10 minutes.