How to Do the Ashtanga Jump Through in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Downward Dog in Yoga Studio
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Also Known As: Jump through

Targets: Shoulders, triceps, forearms, abdominals and core

Level: Advanced

The jump through in Ashtanga practice begins in downward dog. You keep your hands planted on the ground and your legs pass under your body and through your arms to arrive directly in a seated position, sometimes with your legs outstretched and sometimes crossed, depending on where you are in the sequence. In the Ashtanga primary series, this transition is repeated many times as it is how you are supposed to arrive in each seated posture, making the flow more seamless and smooth. The basic technique is to bend your knees and cross your ankles while passing between your arms before re-extending your legs on the other side. It may not sound too complicated until you try it and realize your feet are in the way, or as some claim, your arms are too short to complete the movement.

If it seems like everyone else in your studio does it easily while you're just getting frustrated, you're not alone. The Ashtanga jump through is a surprisingly tricky move to master, and it requires the engagement of your upper body and core, as your arms must support you as your abs and hip flexors engage to draw your legs up and toward your chest as you transition to the seated position.

Benefits

Practiced frequently, the Ashtanga jump through will help you develop strength through your entire upper body, particularly your shoulders and core. In fact, it may help you to think of the jump through as an arm balance. In the most advanced version of this transition, you move from downward facing dog into a handstand before you slowly lower your legs into a standing or seated position. As such, it requires a lot of abdominal strength to complete the move successfully.

While you may not find a reason to perform a jump through-like move in everyday life, the strength and flexibility you gain from its practice, particularly through your core, can help you move with greater agility and balance through your day-to-day life. This type of functional fitness and health translates to overall ease of movement that will make you feel better as you go about your day.

Plus, if you're a regular practitioner of Ashtanga yoga, mastering the jump through will make you feel pretty good about your progress. It's an advanced transition that takes time to learn, and when you can complete it successfully, it can help make your practice more enjoyable and smooth. Although, to be clear, mastering the jump through is not a requirement of the practice. Just a good goal to shoot for over time.

Step-by-Step Instructions

All you need to attempt and complete the Ashtanga jump through is a yoga mat and a lot of patience. This is not a movement you can expect to accomplish on the first attempt.

  1. Start in downward facing dog, your feet roughly hip-distance apart, heels pressing toward the back of the room, hips reaching toward the ceiling, and weight evenly distributed across your palms and the balls of your feet. Take three to five deep breaths here.
  2. Exhale and hop your feet up into the air, flexing your feet as you do so.
  3. Cross your shins quickly and use your hip flexors to draw your knees as close to your chest as you can. The goal is to make your body as compact as possible to allow your torso and legs to swing through your arms.
  4. Swing forward and through your arms, keeping your shoulders and elbows engaged and straight to provide space for your body to pass through.
  5. Come to a seated position with your hips between your hands. Inhale here.

Common Mistakes

Crossing the Ankles Instead of the Shins

If you cross your legs at the ankles after you jump into the air, rather than crossing them higher, at the shins, your knees are more likely to splay outward, knocking your arms as you swing forward, preventing your legs from fitting between your arms. The goal is to be as compact as possible as you jump forward, so really focus on drawing your legs together with your shins crossed high, so your knees remain tight as you swing forward.

Failing to Flex Your Feet

With very few exceptions, your arms should be long enough to enable your torso to pass between them, but those pesky feet may keep getting in the way. Double-check to make sure you flex your feet as soon as you hop your legs into the air so that your toes don't drag on the floor and prevent you from passing through.

Not Drawing Your Knees to Your Chest

The only way to get your torso between your arms is if you're able to draw your knees all the way up and into your chest before you swing between your arms. This requires a quick movement and strong engagement of the core and hip flexors to make the transition, and even necessitates a slightly domed back to have success. Unfortunately, if you don't have strong enough abs or hip flexors, this is going to be hard to do. You may want to work on Pendant pose (lolasana) to develop some of the strength required. It basically freezes the jump through at its most crucial moment when the shins are crossed and the knees are hugging into your belly. Working on this pose will build your core and give you the feeling for slightly doming your back to make more room for your legs underneath you.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

The best modification for beginners is a simple walkthrough, rather than a jump through. Start in downward dog, just as you would for the jump through. Then, carefully walk your feet forward slightly, so your knees are positioned to point between your arms. Cross your legs at your shins, and from here, continue "walking" or "wiggling" one foot forward, all the way through your arms. Take your time and breath freely. Follow with the other foot, and stretch both legs out in front of you before releasing your hips to the ground.

Up for a Challenge?

If you've mastered the jump through and you're capable of doing a handstand, you may want to try a jump through from the handstand position while keeping your legs straight. This is not an easy transition to complete. It requires a lot of upper body and core strength, as well as very flexible hips and hamstrings. From handstand, with your legs together and core tight, slowly hinge your legs at the hips, keeping your knees straight, into a jackknife position, so your body forms an upside down "L." Flex your feet and very slowly and carefully, continue hinging your legs forward, bringing them all the way to your chest, supporting the transfer of weight with your shoulders, triceps, core, and back. Your flexed feet should over just above the ground between your hands. From here, allow your torso to swing forward between your arms as your legs naturally shoot out in front of your body. Release your hips to the ground.

Safety and Precautions

The main thing to think about when performing the Ashtanga jump through is whether you're actually strong enough or flexible enough to perform the movement safely. It's perfectly fine if you're not there yet—in fact, that's normal. If you try to perform the movement before you're really ready for its full expression, you're much more likely to experience pain or an injury. Start with the walkthrough and continue practicing Ashtanga to develop the strength necessary to find success.

Also, if you already have a shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury, supporting your body weight while you do the jump through may exacerbate your injury. Stick with the walkthrough or simply find another way to safely move from downward dog to seated without pain.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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