This is an excerpt from Beth Shaw's YogaFit 3rd Edition by Beth Shaw.
YogaFit applies modern exercise science to the ancient mind–body practice of yoga. Although yoga can have a profound impact on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of students, improper sequencing and pacing creates opportunities for physical discomfort and injury. For this reason, YogaFit classes follow a format called the three mountains. This format is consistent with current group exercise standards and guidelines for the safest, most effective, and consistent progression possible. YogaFit has followed this format since 1995, training over 500,000 people worldwide in the powerful YogaFit style.
YogaFit works from the gross to the subtle, warming up the largest muscle groups and joints first and working toward smaller groups. By the time you get to complex postures, your body is warm and ready to be there.
Every workout begins by preparing your body in two ways. First, you create heat by working the large muscle groups through a gentle range of motion to lubricate the joints, an important factor that helps reduce the chances of injury. This preparation allows the muscles and connective tissue to later stretch safely, without injury. (See chapter 9 for details on safe stretching and flexibility.) As the body warms up you can begin to move in an increasing range of motion, which prepares the body for more intense strength work and stretching while increasing muscular endurance. In mountain I of a YogaFit class, you follow these guidelines by flowing (moving) in and out of the poses continuously to build heat while introducing your muscles and joints gently to the positions you will hold in mountain II. Mountain I also provides an opportunity to check in with the body and notice whether any parts need a little more attention and care in this practice. Each time you step on your mat, your practice is going to be unique depending on both our state of mind and your degree of physical activity the day before.
"Any yoga is good yoga as long as it is safe yoga."
Range of motion involves more than muscles. Genetic bone structure and the health of your joints also determine how flexible you are or can become. To avoid injury and get the most out of your yoga practice, relax and move only as far as you are comfortable, and match your breath with your movement. Be open to exploring different variations of the poses in each practice so that you can find the best position for that day.
After you warm up (mountain I), the focus turns to strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. According to fitness guidelines, people achieve strength and endurance by progressively overloading the muscle with increasing workload and range of motion and moving a muscle several times through a specific range of motion. In mountain II, you do both. Most of the poses are held in isometric contraction to build strength, yet flows are often inserted in order to increase endurance. (See the section titled Flow Series later in this chapter). Further, the variety of poses YogaFit offers ensures that every major muscle is targeted in every class (and most minor muscles, too), maximizing your strength while maintaining balance.
Every workout should end with a cool-down. YogaFit's mountain III brings you down to your mat for poses that focus on deep stretches held for longer periods of time to increase flexibility, lower the heart rate, and deliver a profound sense of relaxation. As you work into mountain III, you are decreasing the intensity of the workout and moving toward the final phase of any healthy fitness regimen, rest and recovery.
YogaFit's three-mountain format consists of these three phases:
YogaFit also includes these two valley phases, which are extensions of mountain I and mountain II: