Breath, Body, Beats (a 21-Day Yoga Challenge) with Schuyler Grant
Breath, Body, Beats with Schuyler Grant is a 21-Day Yoga Challenge intentionally designed to connect breath to movement to music so you can access a flow state where your worries melt away.
Schuyler Grant has been practicing and studying yoga for more than 20 years. Her signature style integrates the breath-based flow of Ashtanga with the precision of Iyengar. She is founder of Kula Yoga Project, co-founder of Wanderlust, and is dedicated to bringing her students deep and transformative mind-body experiences.
01: Day 1: Breathing with the Beats
Welcome to Day 1! Congratulations on making this powerful commitment to yourself and giving yourself the gift of flow state. Research shows that if you cultivate the flow state in your daily life, the benefits touch every part of your life—job performance, peace of mind, creativity, and your own sense of purpose. Connecting to the breath is that powerful. Remember that it’s important to have your blocks and yoga blanket or thick towel. If you find yourself empty-handed, you can always DIY your own. In this first class, you will learn key postures and proper shoulder alignment to establish a foundation for this challenge. (Upcoming classes include less talking and more flowing, but this one is important for everything that follows, so stick with it!)
02: Day 2: Setting Up the Side Body
We walk around having a palpable experience of both our brain and our body. But we rarely attend to the breath. Yet the breath is the link between your mind and your body—the seen and the unseen. It’s the great constant of your life. Today, we work with the breath while paying attention to the side body. These crucial stretches help lengthen the abdominals, hips, and thighs, all while improving spinal flexibility and expanding the rib cage—great for facilitating deeper breathing. Ease through various standing poses and side stretches in Chair (Utkatasana) and Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II), finding ample opportunity to elongate the side body and invite in the breath. Savor this beginning.
03: Day 3: Creating a Powerful Foundation of Flow
Flow is defined as an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. Also known as “the zone,” this is the mental state in which you are fully immersed in whatever activity you’re doing as you’re doing it, with an energized focus. There’s a pleasurable sense of full engagement in the present moment. When you are so completely absorbed in what you are doing that you lose your sense of space and time. This could also be called mediation in motion. Effortless effort. Vinyasa style yoga is the most direct conduit Schuyler has found to dropping into the flow state. Today, you’ll work with your hands and feet—these areas are imperative in creating a powerful foundation for this challenge and your practice as a whole. Today’s class includes wrist stretches, rolling planks, and illuminating block work designed to increase strength and flexibility.
04: Day 4: Opening the Hips
When an artist is so fully absorbed in the act of creation, hours can go by in what feels like an instant. When you’re so focused on your hands and your feet and the metronome of your breath coordinating them through postures, there may be no space in your brain for anything else except the here, the now, the present moment. This is dropping into flow. Many yogis crave hip-opening because activating and stretching the lower torso, considered to be the seat of our emotional consciousness, can be deeply transformative. In these moments, you may find the flow state more accessible— if you’re so consumed with sensation that your mind can’t be anywhere else. Use these hip-openers as a gateway into the present moment, rolling through Garland Pose (Malasana), Lizard Lunges (Utthan Pristhasana), and Modified Side Plank (Vasisthasana).
05: Day 5: Testing Your Twist
Physical sensation can be a powerful way into the flow state. You may find it harder to breathe in twisting poses; but by elongating the spine and extending upward, you can reap the benefits of the powerful postures in today’s sequence while still maintaining the breath. Practice the essentials of twisting through lunges (Anjaneyasana), Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana), and various side stretches with ample focus on the connection between the breath, the waist, and the spine.
06: Day 6: Igniting the Arms
If the practice were too easy, it might be harder to access the flow state. You’d quickly grow bored, your mind would wander to reflections on the past or concerns about the future, or even your pile of dirty laundry. Yet when you’re asked to focus on a challenging task at hand, like core work and arm balances, it can help you mainline the present moment. Don’t be afraid of a little challenge – it might just be the way in. Today, you will draw attention to the arms, shoulders, and wrists, all while breathing into the core to help balance the rest of the body. Use the strength from your abdominals to power the upper body. No need to lift your feet off the floor, simply enjoy the opportunity to explore and set up the principles of arm balancing. (But please do lift the corners of your mouth!)
07: Day 7: Breathing Into Balance
The flow state has been described by some of the world’s greatest thinkers as the most productive and creative state of mind. Positive psychologists propose that inhabiting this zone on a regular basis is a key component of happiness. You can think of the flow state this way: You are involved in an activity for its own sake. Your ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought inevitably follows from the previous one. And then comes Savasana. On this last day of Week One of the challenge, you will connect to the earth using hands, feet and head in this introduction to standing balancing poses and inversions. Use your drishti and your breath to maintain focus as you ease your way through Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose (Padangustasana), playing in an optional headstand (no attempt necessary!) (Salambasana Sirasana), and finishing with forward folds. Breathe in and fully involve yourself with every detail, breath out and release attachment to the outcome.
08: Day 8: Bending to Beats
By skillfully combining or stacking conscious breathing, embodied movement and music, you can mainline the flow state more quickly. Rhythm and melody are a short circuit to getting out of the thinking mind—some people believe that music predates language in human development. Music can carry us into a state of ecstasy—of being outside of everyday reality. Add in a keen focus on your breath and you might start to lose track of time and become absorbed into the present moment. Stack on embodied movement and you might begin to lose your sense of self. All of your worries and concerns might start to drift away. For a moment anyway. Beautiful, isn’t it? This week, Week Two of the challenge, we move into a more intermediate level sequencing—we take what we practiced in Week One and build on it. Yet if you find the postures too challenging, adhere to the modifications. Or you can cycle through Week One again for continued development on creating a powerful foundation for flow. The priority in today’s practice is lengthening the spine. You will focus on maximum extension, keeping the chest forward and up, as you ease through delicious backbends, lunges, and Standing Split (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana). Finish by opening the hamstrings in Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) before settling into a well-earned rest.
09: Day 9: Using Strength to Find Length
On a physiological level, the breath controls a cascade of hormonal and neurological processes. Short rapid breath will energize and adrenalize us – sparking the fight, flight, or freeze response. Deep, elongated breathing stimulates our Parasympathetic nervous system – the aspect of our internal workings that aid in rest, digestion, and healing. Pairing the breath with embodied movement and reflectful mindfulness further enables us to restore, repair and move into optimal states of creative concentration. Today’s practice focuses on strong standing poses. In this class, you will learn tools for maintaining length in the spine to prevent compression and keep your lower back happy in asymmetrical poses. Use Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana), a simple Sun Salutation B variation, and seated twists to practice creating maximum ease in your practice.
10: Day 10: Connecting Breath to Core
The job of the prefrontal cortex, where most of our higher cognitive function is housed, is to think and direct – to be the executive of your “self.” (And it can be quite a petty dictator!) The flow state is the temporary deactivation of this part of your brain. If you put your thinking brain to work directing the coordination of breath and body, you can be lulled into a state of focused quiet. In this space, as you become increasingly absorbed in the dance between the breath and the body, you can experience moments of ecstasy. This is the flow state. The core is the powerhouse of your yoga practice. By strengthening your abdominals, you empower the body to more readily access myriad balancing poses. You’ll begin this class with gentle wrist and ankle stretches, preparing the body for a Warrior 3 focused flow sequence. You’ll engage your feet and layer on the stabilization of the core to find balance and ease. Finish with forward folds and chest openers to neutralize the body before melting into stillness.
11: Day 11: Flowing Into Sensation
How the flow state works comes down to neurobiology. Flow is the product of profound changes in standard brain function. As you drop into a state of flow, your brainwaves move from the fast-moving beta wave of normal waking consciousness and down to the far slower borderline between alpha and theta waves. Alpha is associated with day-dreaming mode - when you can slip from thought to thought without much internal resistance. This is the perfect set up for Savasana. Today, we focus again on hips. You will explore the depth of your hip flexors while adding in more rigor. Pay special attention to your feet as you move through Garland Pose (Malasana), Lizard Lunges (Utthan Pristhasana), and Side Lunge (Skandasana), with a little extra playtime to explore arm balances. Finish with a supported restorative pose and experience the rest that follows intelligent work.
12: Day 12: Nurturing a Strong Spine
The flow state stimulates the most potent feel-good hormones your brain can produce. When you’re dropped in, large quantities of neurochemicals flood your system. These are pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing chemicals that boost creativity, focus, pleasure, and physiological restoration. Today’s class focuses on elongating your spine out of the hips and opening across the chest as you move through Reversed Revolving Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana variation), Supported Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III), Pyramid (Parsvottanasana), and more. Inhale to lengthen, exhale on the twist, and find growth through the breath. A safe twist leads to a strong, supple spine.
13: Day 13: Redefining Your Edge
Accessing the flow state can have huge effects on your creativity. When you are dropped in, the part of your brain that’s charged with self-monitoring and impulse control goes quiet. This part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, is your inner critic, the voice of doubt and disparagement. So when this area is deactivated, you are naturally less critical of yourself and others – and you become more courageous. You can imagine new possibilities and share those possibilities with the world. Today, you’ll discover how asymmetrical legwork can be used to strengthen the core and use innovative block work to create levity. Take what you learn and apply it to Locust (Salabhasana), Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), and Crow (Bakasana), working up the perfect sweat before settling into savasana. Let your strength propel you forward and inward.
14: Day 14: Floating and Flying
Spiritual teacher Amit Ray posits that in order to conquer the anxieties of life, we must live in the breath. As you become increasingly absorbed in the dance between the breath and the body during this challenge, you can expect to experience brief, and even prolonged, moments of peace, pleasure, and a sense of heightened calm. Today marks the end of Week Two - congratulations! Today, we circle back to explore standing balances and inversions. You’ll set up for a healthy inversion practice by properly stacking the shoulders over the elbows. If you’re feeling up to it, explore tiny handstand hops before settling into gentle and relaxing restorative postures. Remember: Yoga is so much more about approach and quality rather than performance. The fact that you’re still with us means you’re doing great!
15: Day 15: Adding More Power to Your Practice
The breath flourishes under the attention of your inner gaze. It is also an embodiment of the duality of our nature. Notice how the inhalation, inviting the element of air into the body, grounds you toward the earth. And how the exhalation makes you lighter and more airy. Allow yourself to deeply experience this duality. You are the conduit between heaven and earth. Welcome to Week Three! Starting today, you’ll build on your previous postures and venture into a new realm of your practice. If you find today’s class too advanced, even when modified, you are encouraged to cycle through Week Two again. Remember: Yoga is a lifelong exploration of yourself. Of your spirit, of your inner gaze. There is no reason to doubt if you’re doing it right (or wrong). Let the ego mind fade into silence as you do what’s best for, today, so you can continue to practice safely. In today’s session, you will explore Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I), learning proper extension and alignment so that you can power your flow practice with precision and grace. Apply this knowledge into the flow practice, Pyramid (Ardha Parsvottanasana), and Revolved Half Moon (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana), finishing with delicious side stretches to balance out the body. Rest and modify if and when you need to. If you stick with the breath, you are still fully in the practice. Remember that more advanced practice comes with dedication, attention, time and a willingness to play!
16: Day 16: Unwinding with Binds
The breath is the invisible thread that both illuminates your inner world and directly connects you to the outside world. Even if you don’t think you are intimately connected to every living thing around us – even if you resist the notion of interdependence – the breath does not lie. You exchange air molecules with humans, animals, all organic life. Every single breath you take has been associated with another living organism. The breath is the constant expression of our shared collective life force. Today, you’ll work with binds. This isn’t about tying yourself up in fancy knots but rather about creating space in the spine to enjoy the depth and range of your postures. You will focus on elongation and extension as you move through variations of Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana). Use your breath to fire up spinal rotation and stay present in the pose—there is strength in your quiet focus.
17: Day 17: Playing with Breath and Form
A single breath seems like such a small thing compared to the Earth’s atmosphere, yet incredibly - if you trust the scientists that study the dispersion of air through time and space - you might be surprised to learn that every breath is shared. In this regard, we are all breathing together, lives interwoven. Yoga means union. To know your next exhale will enable others to live seems like the most beautiful illumination of the yogic path. Inhale: allow. Exhale: give. Today’s practice will rely on the strength you’ve built in your hands, feet, and core. They are the tools for launching into a place of inner and outer exploration. You’ll explore today the potential of coordinating the distal parts of your body in a challenging flow sequence focused on Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III), Crow (Bakasana), and handstand prep. You have all the tools you need to surrender any attachment to the outcome. Enjoy the process of playing with breath and form.
18: Day 18: Stoking Your Inner Fire
Flow state is an optimal state of consciousness—keen, present awareness—where you feel your best and perform your best. And today, you put all the hard work you’ve done so far together—it’s time to reap the benefits of participating in this 21-day challenge. To feel the depth and flexibility in your lower body on this final day of hip-opening. You’ll begin with Downward Dog/Figure 4 variations, side plank variations, Eagle (Gomukasana), and Gate Pose (Parighasana). The breath has the power to stoke an inner fire that eliminates stagnation in your hips. It can cool an overheated mind and drop you into the present moment. This potent tool is at your disposal any time—on and off the mat.
19: Day 19: Releasing What Does Not Serve You
Breath is the most generous gift given to you by that higher power you believe in, whether you consider it God, the Divine, or Spirit. This gift, your breath, animates you and every living thing. It tethers you to yourself and others. Today’s class is our final day of twists. You’ll use self-assists to find maximum rotation, moving through side plank variation, side crow (Parsva Bakasana), revolving side angle (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana), and revolving triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana). Inhale the confidence to ease through this final push—you’re stronger than you’ve ever been. Each twist is an opportunity to explore the duality of contraction and release, ebb and flow, exhale and inhale.
20: Day 20: Balancing with Breath
“I can.” “I am.” “I’m able.” With every inhale, you assimilate the story of our planet. The story of who you are and who you are becoming. With every exhale, you participate in our collective future. Today as you apply everything you’ve learned so far during this final day of corework and arm balancing, deepen your inward gaze. Draw power and strength from the breath. Exhale love and peace. Your practice not only benefits you, but it also honors all the people who walked the path before you to create a world of infinite possibility. In today’s class, use your yoga blocks to practice lift-off. You’ll approach Crow (Bakasana) with levity in mind and body, and wind down with a stabilizing bridge variation. Allow the bliss of surrendering all effort to run through your body as you plumb the quiet depths of your mind.
21: Day 21: Flowing Effortlessly
The breath, this magical tool for inquiry and shift, is the link between your inner world and your outer manifestation. It is your first and last communion with the world around you. It unconditionally connects you to everyone around you. It is the enduring expression of your highest nature. Let it carry you forward through your with grace, dignity, and compassion. Today, on our final day of the yoga challenge, we celebrate! Reward yourself with one last push, utilizing the breath firmly to ground down and rise up. Play in Tree Pose (Vrksasana) and Camel (Ustrasana), ending with handstand hops to play with balance and take one last step past your comfort zone. End with full body breaths in forward folds and reflect: how has accessing flow state transformed your inner and outer worlds?