Course Notes: PRI Integration for Yoga

Portland is Cool

The PRI road show continued on to Portland. This time I learned how PRI integrates with Yoga from the masters—Emily Soiney and James Anderson.

Coming into the course I was incredibly biased against Yoga. I’m not a huge fan of crazy mobility expression, which in PRI-land could potentially lead to pathology.

Moreover, the crowd that is typically attracted to yoga is of the more flexible variety. Bad news bears.

That being said, Emily pleasantly surprised me.

With the way Emily teaches Yoga, I see it more now as an expression of moving within your limits; not going beyond those limits like many poses attempt to do.

Yoga can be done right, and when it is it’s fahkin’ haad!

The goal for PRI-inspired Yoga is to keep the zone of apposition (ZOA) while expressing how far you can move. If you lose the ZOA, then movement integrity is diminished.

Let’s find out how we can do that.

Yoga Overview…Yogarview???? Whatever

 I came into this course knowing piddly diddly about yoga. Which being around several yoga practitioners was a big mistake.

There was a lot of Yoga terminology and posing that was discussed nonchalantly, which more than a few times had me lost.

I now know how those who are not familiar with PRI feel taking a course for the first time.

I only blame myself though. Make sure you are prepped when you go and at least have basic familiarity with basic yoga poses, verbiage, and tenets.

There is much more to yoga than just poses and breathing. In fact, there are 8 limbs of yoga, broken up into two categories

Category 1 – Things you do

  • Yamas – Restraints from harming, lying, stealing, hoarding, etc
  • Niyamas – observing cleanliness, content, zeal for yoga, self-study, and surrender
  • Asana – The posing
  • Pranayama – The breath
  • Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana – Intense focus

Two strikes for me so far.

Category 2 – Things that happen to you

  • Dhyana – Meditative state
  • Samadhi – State of oneness


The methodology aims to bring harmony among one’s physical, mental, and spiritual self.

Yoga, much like PRI, aims for integration through position, airflow, and autonomics.

The PRI-side for da Haterz…This is What PRI is Not

 As with all affiliate courses, the PRI overview is given. I went into detail on this here, but with the same material I still picked up some good points.

A lot of da haterz on da interwebz give PRI flack because posture (gasp) is in the name.

However, PRI is not discussing posture in the traditional sense.

In fact, James feels that PRI does the opposite of normal posture training.

Traditional extension-driven posture training disrespects the nervous system, tones and tightens areas, and looks good.

To contrast, PRI respects the nervous system, relaxes, and feels good.

The way PRI achieves this respect is by starting with a more flexed posture. This position alleviates deformation along the sympathetic ganglia and elongates the nervous system. This positioning aids in creating a state of neurological rest.

From this position, extension and uprightness is added to the program while attempting to maintain some semblance of rest.

One big PRI goal is to achieve neutrality. This autonomic and arthrokinematic transition zone is what allows access for end-range at either spectrum.

We move from flexion to extension, abduction to adduction, external rotation to internal rotation, sympathetic to parasympathetic. With all of these end-ranges potentially occurring simultaneously in a human system. This ever-changing flux creates disorder, options, chaos, variability; qualities in which the human system thrives.

Neutrality simply unlocks that capacity.

The Pause

 The pause is an essential piece in how PRI teaches breathing, but why?

After the full exhalation, the diaphragm is maximally domed and the zone of apposition (ZOA) is at its greatest. In other words, the diaphragm is in a relaxed state. When the pause occurs post-exhale, the diaphragm spends time out of tonicity, and the human system spends time in a parasympathetic-dominant state.

During both this pause and inhalation, the tongue ought to be pushed up into the palate. This movement helps balance the stylohoid and 16 muscles that attach to the sphenoid. Keeping the tongue here is the best way to shut off the neck without orthotics.

A PRI Brain in a Yoga World

 Once we got a PRI and Yoga overview, it was time for Emily to take over.

First order of business was screening individuals. The screen utilized consisted of active tests to help the practitioner determine what protective pattern a client is in. The only missing piece that I saw here was lack of a frontal plane test, which would further enhance the screen’s strength.

There were also active functional tests that give insight as to what pattern-opposition muscles a client can use to decrease this protective tone. The nice thing about these tests in particular is that they are already yoga poses; more attention is just paid on what areas the client perceives as working.

From here, poses were demonstrated with the planes in mind, and suggestions were made about what poses (asanas) would be beneficial/harmful for most individuals:

How Asanas hurt

  • Repetitive movements with lack of variety.
  • Disrespecting spinal curves and girdle biomechanics.
  • Transitions that could potentially create impingement.
  • Emphasizing the pose’s end result or aesthetics instead of subtleties.
  • Dyssynchrony between alignment and breathing cues.
  • Not allowing clients to rest.
  • Overemphasizing an inherent planar imbalance in a body region.

How Asanas help

  • With intelligent sequencing.
  • Enhancing body and breathing awareness
  • Implementing movement variety.
  • Correctly mobilize tissues.
  • Respect joint mechanics.

To summate, Yoga can be done right or wrong. The best way to keep yoga safe is by keeping the ZOA as best as possible.

Yoga Considerations

In talking purely sagittal plane, mass flexion ought to occur in the forward bend. One starts with combining thoracic flexion with a posterior pelvic tilt. The hip should be in a state of flexion, abduction, and external rotation.

It is critical in backward bends that the ZOA is maintained. Hip positioning ought to include hip extension, adduction, and internal rotation

Reference Centers/PRIYAS

 A reference center is how we integrate with the world. They were called PRI Yoga Awareness Sites (PRIYAS) in this course. Finding and feeling these areas is key to integrating left-sidedness into our environments.

If you or your client cannot perceive these areas well, right lateralization likely knows who you are.

The PRIYAS include:

  • Left heel – Connects ankle dorsiflexion with hip extension.
  • Left sit bone – Likely has a neutral pelvic outlet and can shift into the left hip.
  • Left abdominals, hamstrings, adductors, and gluteus medius – Has ZOA, neutral pelvis, and can shift into the left side.
  • Right gluteus maximus, rectus femoris, lower trap, and triceps – Can likely maintain neutrality while on the right leg.
  • Right arch – Mirrors the right hemidiaphragm; keeps foot neutral in frontal plane.
  • Left posterior mediastinum – Shows airflow into an inhibited area; accessory muscle breathing is reduced. Predominately sagittal.
  • Right lateral posterior superior ribs – Signifies frontal and transverse plane airflow.

 Cauuuute Cauuuuuues

Emily is a cueing monster. ‘Nuff said.

The little nuances that she used in many of the activities are worth the price of admission alone.

She had a nice way to cue spinal elongation. Where should you elongate? Through your bregma bro!

Another good way to cue head position is to pretend there is a grapefruit underneath your chin. I really like this cue because it insures that excessive cervical retraction does not occur. We don’t want much cervical retraction because that would promote cranial extension, thus contributing to extensor tone.

In some of the PRI manual techniques, we place our hands on the sternum to facilitate a ZOA. The same thing can be done with your thumbs. It is quite amazing how providing this reference for your sternum can influence diaphragm position. It personally demolishes my lower traps.

Emily also had a great cue during reaching to better engage serratus. Many folks have a tendency to elevate their scapulae when they perform a reach. However, if you lead the reach more with your pinkies this tendency seems to melt away.

I thoroughly loved the language she used for the PRIYAS as well. Here were my favorites

  • Left heel – Grounded, rooted.
  • Left sit bone – anchor, draw the hamstring pulley down.
  • Left abs/adds/hams/glute med – Kid hugging your waist; pull your leg out of mud.
  • Right gluteus maximus, rectus femoris, lower trap, and triceps – pull the lawnmower
  • Right arch – spread your foot
  • Left posterior mediastinum and right lateral posterior superior ribs – Breeze blowing in an open window

Zac’s Favorite Moves

 Playing with your nose is an excellent preparatory technique for yoga.

Emily showed us an alternate nostril breathing technique, which parallels the infraclavicular pump. The left nostril has more parasympathetic and right cortical connections, whereas the right nostril is more sympathetic and left. We want to maximize both of these qualities.

Some other neat activities that I could see myself using clinically were the Pose Dedicated to the Sage Bharadvaja

I was finally able to bring my butt down to the ground with that one.

I also really enjoyed the bent knee moonrise, which is a great way to simulate left stance.

I have also been using the side angle pose quite a bit. I’ve found it do wonders for intercostal inhibition as well as simulating left stance

The Verdict

 Overall, Emily put together a solid course, and definitely convinced me that yoga can be done safely. It is now just a matter of education those yogis and yogettes on how to perform these tasks in a favorable manner.

 Emily Quotes

  • “A $500 course on how to calm down? I’m just gonna sit here and breathe. “
  • “Yoga is what I’m feeling.”
  • “Feeling the heel can be very spiritual.”
  • “I missed what you said because I was laughing at my joke.”
  • “You just got the huge T-bone. Grassfed.”
  • “I was joking because my pelvic floor came on. I’m glad you didn’t see that.”
  • “I feel like I have to do a séance when someone can’t feel a muscle.”
  • “I so ZOA’d.”
  • “I’m so glad you’re here.”
  • “Can you shut your neck off? No? Get out of that class.”
  • “[A patient] I have a tendency to arch the back. [Emily] I know sweetie.”
  • “I just feel so sorry for this right hip.”
  • “Yoga practice is about taking care of yourselves.”
  • “Transverse plane is icing on the cake.”
  • “Why say something if you don’t know what you’re talking about?”
  • “You cannot direct air into your lungs. I’m sorry.”
  • “You don’t want to stretch or strengthen someone in a torqued, lateralized system.”
  • “I’m super spoiled…Not really I worked hard.”
  • “You have a PRI nation behind you. We will take them on!”

 Great James Quotes

  • “It’s so not a plumb bob.”
  • “You need to breathe all the way out or don’t play the game.”
  • “I’m so sick of talking to physical therapists I could puke.”
  • “Getting it [air] out is the show.”
  • “Why is his head forward? Did he just decide today was forward head day?”
  • “You can’t be flexed in a state of inhalation.”
  • [On walking early] “Yay! Look at baby! Gonna have fibromyalgia!”
  • “Why are you growing your tummy when your lungs aren’t in your tummy?”
  • “You went from jacked to super jacked.”
  • “You can’t flight the brain.”
  • “It’s not my little pattern.”
  • “You know how many stretches in PT school they taught me that I wish I never known?”
  • “Asia likes neutrality and flexion. We like extension and surgery.”
  • “There’s a new sheriff in town called reality.”
  • “The brain is the show. Tweet that!”
  • “PRI is not on trial. You know what’s on trial? Crap that doesn’t work.”
  • “Ever do crunches with a neck strain? What a great way to integrate headache…things.”
  • “Would you call them yogi’s and yogettes?”
  • “You look neutral baby.”
  • [On manual therapy] “Brain is better than a hammer.”
  • “If you’re talking triplanar, I’m going to give you a high five and take this little star and put it near your purple hair.”
  • “You wish you had a slippery right bra.”
  • “Exhalation is a triplanar move.”
  • “Other than the brain, Grand Central Station, the diaphragm is at the heart of human performance.”


  1. Zac, I’m thrilled you were able to attend this first ever course and share it with all of our friends on the “interwebz.” Your gift of entertaining and educational writing is unreal!

    Just so future attendees know, we will provide pre-reading material for both non-yoga practitioners (outlining basic yoga concepts, poses, etc) and another for fitness instructors (introducing them to health care concepts such as special tests, goniometry, and pathomechanical findings). This will help everyone be on the same page for all future courses. We will not skip any of the PRI Tests as we had to this time 🙁 In this way, participants will see how we evaluate for frontal plane dysfunction in the clinic and will be better able to screen for that important component the studio. Unfortunately, I will not be able to use any of your yoga videos from this blog because you sound like you may explode. Hope you can find a PRI Yoga teacher soon 😉

    Thank you for all the props and for the great feedback on an evolving course!